Killing Justice; Killing Hayes

Had attorney Jeremiah Donovan waited a week or two, his violation of a court order would never have been necessary: Joshua Komisarjevsky's diaries told us all we needed to know about his sexual assault of an 11-year-old girl in Cheshire. He didn't actually rape her, he reasons; he spared her that indignity. Instead, he merely ejaculated onto her. Welcome to Hell where such distinctions matter.

Donovan will face a show cause hearing before Superior Court Judge Roland Fasano today. The judge will have to determine what to do about the fact that Donovan wasn't supposed to comment publicly about the case, but then went ahead and did so anyhow. He violated a gag order. It s abundantly clear he violated that order.

At the time, it seemed like an outlaw's gallantry, defending his client against all odds. A jury was hearing, and the press was reporting, the gory details of the Cheshire home invasion in the case of the co-defendant, Steven Hayes. Donovan's client, Mr. Komisarjevsky, doesn't go to trial until January 2011. Donovan wanted to correct misinformation that might make it impossible for his client to get a fair trial.

But he also wanted to silence the family of the victims, who have become veritable rock stars, riding a tidal wave of sympathy. No gag order applies to them. They are free to speak, to lobby in favor of the death penalty, to pull as hard as they can at the heartstrings of a public outraged by these murders. And they have done so, with the assistance of a public relations firm that has donated its time to the cause. 

Donovan's strategy seems to have worked.

Shortly after Donovan's courthouse contempt, Dr. William Petit Jr. announced he would not seek to testify at the penalty phase. Many press reports made this sound like an act of magnanimity. But the fact remains that Dr. Petit had no right to testify at the penalty phase of the trial. While he has lobbied for legislation that would permit victims to give so-called victim's impact statements to juries in capital cases, that is not the law. Had Dr. Petit sought to testify he would have created an appellate issue for the defense. His silence, he hopes, will be deadly, eliminating an issue that could have, if he had been permitted to testify, been the sort of error that might have given Hayes a new trial.

In addition, Dr. Petit testified in the guilt phase. He is under a sequestration order that normally prohibits a witness from sitting in on the testimony of others, for fear that such attendance might influence the testimony of others. The court bent the rules for Dr. Petit, permitting him to remain in the courtroom after his testimony; it was understood that by so doing he would waive any right to be recalled.

I did not hear Dr. Petit waive the right to speak at sentencing. I suspect he will, and that he will eloquently call for the death of the men who destroyed his family. He just won't get to do that before the jury that decides whether to kill Hayes. 

Jeremiah Donovan was in contempt of a court order. He should pay a fine and move on. The drama of the event was a flash in the pan. There was no prejudice to any party. We're now sated with all we could ever want to know about Komisarjevsky. Let the focus return to Steven Hayes, who, in a different courtroom, will resume his silent vigil as his lawyers try to save his life.

Yesterday's testimony was not exactly helpful to the defense. The defense offered prison officials to tell the jury about what prison is like, and to assure them that violent men do not become more so while confined. But then a report surfaced: Hayes had threatened to rip the heart out of corrections officer. On another occasion he boasted he had nothing left to lose. He is on death row after all.

Bad move, Steve. You have a life to lose. That remark may well come back to haunt you some needle-filled day.

I am not sure what we expect of the men on death row. Even Thomas Hobbes, a seventeenth century philosopher who theorized that the state should be given enormous power to provide its citizens security, realized that all bets were off once the state seeks to kill. A man facing the death penalty is justified in using lethal force to resist the state. We've declared war on Hayes; Hobbes wouldn't expect him simply to whimper, "oh, all right" on his way to the death chamber. In the war of all against all, Hayes gets to kill again, and with justification, if he strikes at the state's assassins, or so Hobbes theorized.

Public opinion reflects great support for the killing of Steven Hayes and Joshua Komisarjevsky. The Hayes trial has been a brutal affair. But there is more brutality to come, I am afraid. This business of the state striking to kill is wrong. It is making killers of us all and mocking the rule of law. Donovan's contempt, Hayes' prison outburst, the angry snarl of a public aching for yet more blood: pathology all. We ought not to tinker with death and call it justice. Vengeance isn't justice. Neither is confining a man to a tiny box while we make every effort to kill him, and then expect him to submit quietly to the death-strike. And neither is punishing a lawyer for exposing double standards with a courageous act of contempt.

This sad farce demeans us all. And it won't end any time soon.

Also listed under: Cheshire Homicide

Comments: (6)

  • Then what is just?
    Who gets to decide that vengeance isn't justice? Is it more just to allow this monster to live, sleep comfortably, be fed, eventually most likely socialize with others, watch television and read? A man who coldly raped an innocent mother and burned her daughter's alive? To me that is not justice.
    In my mind, when one takes the life of another he forfeits his right to live in society. Taking Steven Hayes' life is not murder, it is fair consequence for a choice he made. It's no secret that in a state that enforces the death penalty, murder may well get you just that. If the state has made this punishment known, and someone still decides to commit the crime, death is a choice that he, and only he, has made.
    It's a sad day that in its frantic concern for defendants rights, the state has turned its back on its victims, whose rights have most often already been horribly violated by the accused.
    Posted on October 26, 2010 at 9:42 am by Killing Justice
  • Hayes
    This cretin should be put down like the mad dog that he is. The only abomination in this trial is the conduct of the defense lawyers for him and his partner in crime. Over three years is way too long for this case. They should have been executed within a year. Plus it should have been done with "Old Sparky" so they could at least feel a little of the pain they inflicted upon their victims.
    Posted on October 26, 2010 at 10:33 am by Harry
  • Death Penalty
    We are the only democratic country that has the death penalty. Mant people do not realize that when the state puts someone to death the Death Certificate read that the cause of death is "MURDER" Wow! The state is a murderer! Does Mr. Petit reallt think that after the trials this will be over and he will have closure? No! Ten years or more for appeals. As someone who spent over 12 years in prison for a crime I did not commit and was found factually innocent and then released I can say without hesitation that if I were on death row I would have been murdered by the state. If you really want to punish these animals then let them rot in prison knowing that they will die there. Now that is pure punishment and hell. Prison is not a country club has many say it is. It is prison!! Civilized countries do not execute thier citizens. When we do we are not any different than Muslum countries and third world countries.
    Posted on October 26, 2010 at 11:25 am by nydefense
  • Don't forget
    This guy "ran laughing" from the burning home.. A raped and murdered woman and two girls, alive and tied to their beds,inside.
    Steven Hayes "ran laughing" from it.
    Defend that, please.
    Posted on October 26, 2010 at 1:30 pm by Jeffery
  • what stops the next one
    Ok, who is this loser? What will stop the next person who tortures, rapes and then murders after stealing all the silver. 3 meals and a cot is no deterant! This guy must need more clients as he doesn't sound smart enough to get any referals from past clients
    Posted on October 26, 2010 at 3:13 pm by eye4eyes
  • Gain vs. Loss
    What do we gain by having Old Stevie Boy alive in a cage for the rest of his life?
    What do we lose by killing him?
    Posted on October 26, 2010 at 7:38 pm by MarthaBaby

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