Twittering Nabobs of Death


It will be many years before a record is fully assembled about what role the media played in creating a death-chamber in the New Haven courtroom that was home to the trial of State v. Steven Hayes. Reporters flocked from around the world to behold the trial. Each seat was packed; television ews crews assembled in the pre-dawn hours so as not to miss a moment.

The hero of this morality play was Dr. William Petit, Jr. His every move was studied, and reported upon, as though he were something other than a man of sorrows, acquainted with unspeakable grief. Did he place his hand to his brow, or sigh, as the testimony was presented?: On your mark, get set, type!, was sthe silent imperative of the scores of press in the courtroom. And in unison fingers pecked across tiny keyboards, each reporter trying to toss 140 characters into the electronic void first; each trying to show just how sensitive they could be about the sorrow and the horror, oh, the sweet horror of it all.

Connecticut is one of the few Northeastern states to retain the death penalty. The trial of Mr. Hayes illustrates why it should be abandoned. This trial was transformed into a silly farce. One the one side, pure goodness, in the form of an uppe-imiddle-clas white male, a physician no less, from a place called Cheshire. His was the sort of life we tell our children to seek. Work hard. Play by the rules. Get ahead.

Until in the dark of night Evil comes a calling. Two hapless ex-convicts stormed into paradise. They raped and killed the doctor's wife, and murdered his two daughters too. The doctor managed, miraculously and perhaps to his everlasting torment, to survive. His survivor's guilt is now buried beneath a call for justice.

So we lined up to watch the show. Witness after witness gave us our fill of horror. This morning, Judge Jon C. Blue gets to ice this delicious cake of revenge. And the cherry atop it all: Dr. WIlliam Petit, Jr., who will get a chance to stand and declare why eyes must be plucked from the skulls of the living to atone for the eyes taken in rage. Ecce Victim! All silent now.

The mother of a black man slain wandered the streets outside of the New Naven courtoom as the Hayes trial took place. "My son matters, too," she told tired newsmen. You see, another trial was taking place in the building. This trial involved the killing of a black boy killed in the backwater of a distressed urban neighborhood. No one cared about this death.

Lawyers for Mr. Hayes have moved for a new trial, claiming that the courtroom was transformed into something other than a palace of justice during trial. When dozens of reporters stare at Dr. Petit and report his every move, does that not infect the character of the proceedings? We all know it does, we just can say quite how. Look at the techies staring zombie-like and frantically into their handheld devices at some coffee shop. They inhabit the twilight of the living dead.

The cold record in this case will not reflect this two-dimensional world. And those who know Judge Blue would not expect him to detect such a thing. He is a border collie of a jurist. Point him in the right direction, and he moves, cheerfully and with the alacrity of a teacher's, pet toward his goal. He is not a bellweather of social intelligence.

Claims about what went down in that courtroom will be perfected at a habeas corpus proceeding years from now. Social psychologists will testify about the power of silent cues, about something called sociometry and how a courtroom was transformed into a shrine. Whether Mr. Hayes will get a new trial then is doubtful. Too many people want him dead. You see, he is not just a killer. Mr. Hayes killed upper-middle-class white folks. He killed the American Dream. That is simply unforgiveable.

Also listed under: Cheshire Homicide

Comments: (4)

  • Hayes Retrial
    If Michael Skakel cannot get a retrial in CT, it is even more unlikely that Hayes gets one. If every defendant in CT who deserved a retrial got one, the State would be unable to afford the surge in judicial resources necessary to accomplish this task. So Hayes joins the ranks of thousands of us denied a fair trial and proper justice in the nutty state.
    Remember, you only get the justice you can afford, and the State picks the low-hanging fruit for prosecution. Those are the unwritten rules of jurisprudence in CT today. Meanwhile, the State is neither able to prevent serious crimes or solve them properly once committed. Official state actors and actresses feed at the public trough while the superficial and bored citizenry twitter their stewpid lives away. Such is the state of criminal justice in the Unconstitution State, a state in Denial.
    Judge Black and Blue must be an inspiration to those up-and-comers in the legal profession who desire to make a comfortable living without working up a sweat. And I doubt Cheshire is the magical American Dreamland you make it out to be. There are plenty of other places I would rather live in Amerika. You can't even see the ocean from Cheshire. The attention this case has gotten is outrageous, given the lack of attention to other serious prosecutions which get ignored by the press. Been there, done that!?!
    Posted on December 2, 2010 at 6:02 am by william doriss
  • Nabobs
    Mr. Pattis, you had been quoted in the newspaper as having said that you wished anyone who threatened to kill you to spend the rest of his life behind bars (in reaction to a threat delivered by one of your clients). I find it perplexing that you think YOUR upper middle-class white American Dream is worth a life behind bars for threatening it, but you barely veil your contempt for the Petit family for wanting their attacker to suffer a higher level of punishment. Was your desire for a life sentence for a threat merely "revenge", as you call the Petits' desire? Why would a mere threat to your American Dream be considered equal to, and deserving of the same punishment for, the torture and destruction of an entire family? (I agree with you that your client belongs behind bars for the rest of his life, not just for threatening you, but for the safety of potential child victims. He has proved himself to be a menace. I also think Hayes deserves his death penalty.)
    Posted on December 2, 2010 at 4:50 pm by EBB
  • ...
    Norm,
    You are doing a fine job with your blog. There are few people who know what you know about the criminal justice system, and even less who have the courage and talent to express themselves so well. Thank you.
    Sincerely,
    Shareef Rabaa
    Posted on December 2, 2010 at 5:55 pm by Don't post this
  • Nabobs comments
    Nabobs comments are my feelings exactly.
    Just wonder if anything like this crime was committed to the Pattis family, which I hope it never does, How would Mr. Pattis feel then. Would he want the death sentence then.
    my thoughts are that he would.
    Posted on December 3, 2010 at 9:23 am by Arline

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