One of two men sentenced to death for the slayings of a mother and her two daughters during a 2007 home invasion in a wealthy suburb was resentenced Wednesday to life in prison.
Steven Hayes is the first of 11 death row inmates to be resentenced since the state Supreme Court ruled in August that their sentences violated the state constitution's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment and was out of step with contemporary standards of decency.
The court reaffirmed that ruling last month in considering a 2012 law passed by Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and the Democrat-controlled legislature that abolished the death penalty for future cases. Malloy and the legislature had insisted on that as a condition of their support for repeal in a long-running debate that focused on the Cheshire home invasion. The law left 11 men, including Hayes, still facing execution.
The majority in last year's landmark ruling essentially said it wouldn't be fair to execute the remaining death row inmates when lawmakers had determined the death penalty was no longer needed for future killers.
Hayes and Joshua Komisarjevsky were convicted of the murders of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters, 17-year-old Hayley Petit and 11-year-old Michaela Petit. Hawke-Petit and Michaela were sexually assaulted before Hawke-Petit was strangled and their house was doused with gasoline and set on fire. Hayley and Michaela died in the fire.
A judge on Wednesday imposed six consecutive life sentences on Hayes, who did not speak during the brief hearing.
Hawke-Petit's husband and the girls' father, Dr. William Petit, was badly beaten during the home invasion but survived. He did not attend the hearing but issued a statement critical of the resentencing.
"It is a very sad day when a prolonged trial and decision and sentencing by a jury that took 4.5 months to seat is overturned by a legislature that ignores the wishes of the people of CT," he said in a text message via Twitter. "The insult is compounded by a Supreme Court that rules on not one but 2 cases based on personal opinions and politics and not the law."
A hearing originally scheduled for Friday to resentence Komisarjevsky has been postponed. His attorneys are seeking a new trial, arguing the defense did not receive all the evidence to which it was entitled, including some police dispatch tapes.
Hayes was convicted of six capital felony charges, three murder counts and two charges of sexually assaulting Hawke-Petit. His attorneys tried to persuade jurors to spare him the death penalty by portraying him as a clumsy, drug-addicted thief who never committed violence until the home invasion, and they called Komisarjevsky the mastermind and said he escalated the violence.
The men's attorneys have asserted that an inadequate police response contributed to the deaths.
Resentencing hearings for the remainder of the death row inmates have yet to be scheduled.