A Connecticut convict on death row for killing a mom and her two daughters during a violent 2007 home invasion has been resentenced to life in prison following a ruling that the death penalty is unconstitutional.
Joshua Komisarjevsky, 35, was resentenced to six consecutive life sentences without the possibility of release Tuesday, making him the third death row prisoner to be spared lethal injection after the state Supreme Court’s ruling last year that it was in violation of state's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
He and Steven Hayes, who was also resentenced to six consecutive life sentences without the chance for release, were convicted of breaking into a Cheshire home and murdering Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters Hayley, 17, and Michaela, 11. Hawke-Petit and Michaela were also raped.
The victims’ husband and father, prominent local endocrinologist Dr. William Petit Jr., was severely injured but survived the attack that Komisarjevsky described to detectives as “home invading gone terribly wrong.”
Hayes and Komisarjevsky tied up and tortured the family as they tore through their home in search of cash and valuables, prosecutors said during their trials.
Hayes raped and strangled Hawke-Petit and Komisarjevsky sexually assaulted Michaela before they doused the home with gasoline and set it on fire, the smoke from which ultimately killed the girls.
Komisarjevsky’s attorney Jeremiah Donovan told reporters after his client’s resentencing on Tuesday he was relieved to see his client taken off death row, saying: “It’s a heavy burden on your life; it’s like having someone you love very sick… you think about it all the time. Boy does it feel good to have that burden lifted off.”
He said he wished it possible to go back in time to avoid spending so much money challenging the original sentence, but that he was grateful for the legislature that made the resentencing possible.
The death penalty was abolished in Connecticut in April 2012, but the ruling only applied to new cases. Death sentences that were already issued before the law was made remained in place.
In August 2015, the state Supreme Court ruled 4-3 that the ban on capital punishment should apply to all defendants.
No Petit family members attended Komisarjevsky’s resentencing, as they felt they had spoken their piece during his first sentencing, prosecutor Gary Nicholson said, the Hartford Courant reported.
“We’d really like to thank the jury for their really difficult decision,” Petit said when Komisarjevsky was sentenced to death. “We believe justice has been served. We are satisfied that the defendant has been judged to be the murderer, rapist, the criminal that he is, and now he's been condemned to the ultimate penalty.
“We certainly have been criticized over the years that this is vengeance and blood lust, but this is really about justice.”