Malloy needs to rethink the death penalty
Rita Papazian
Norwalk-Citizen News
Published: 12:23 p.m., Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The timing of the first televised debate between gubernatorial candidates, Democrat Daniel Malloy and Republican Tom Foley could not have been more unfortunate for Malloy. While their attacks on each other's record and viewpoints were no surprise in many instances, their positions on the death penalty not only were in sharp contrast but also quite significant.

For the two gubernatorial hopefuls stated their positions on the death penalty hours after Steven Hayes, of Winsted, one of two men accused of the murder of a mother, 48 and her two daughters, ages 11 and 17, was found guilty of 16 out of 17 counts; six carry the death penalty.

Hayes was found guilty of three counts of murder, six counts of capital felony, the sexual assault of the mother, Jennifer Hawkes-Petit, four counts of first --degree kidnapping, third-degree burglary and the baseball assault on the husband and father, William Petit, the lone survivor of the Cheshire home invasion in 2007. The jury acquitted Hayes on one count, first-degree arson. Hayes' accomplice, Joshua Komisarjevsky, 30, of Cheshire will be tried next year.

Last year, Republican Gov. Jodi Rell vetoed a bill that would have repealed capital punishment in Connecticut. The state legislature had supported the bill prior to the governor's veto. The issue is expected to be addressed again with the new administration and legislature.

During the gubernatorial debate, Foley said" If there were an instance where capital punishment should apply," it was the Hawkes-Petit case. If elected governor, Foley said he would veto any bill to repeal the death penalty that is passed on from the legislature. Malloy, who held firm to his anti-capital punishment stance, said that the repeal would apply to "future cases," and that the current death penalty law would apply to the Cheshire murders.

"No one is going to protect your family as well as I will," Malloy said.

Malloy's position does not reassure me. How do we know that there isn't another pair of criminals out there with a rap sheet who questions why criminals such as Hayes and Komisarjevsky were allowed to roam freely.

News accounts describe the Cheshire home invasion as a burglary that went awry. The seven hours of torture and torment that began in the middle of the night and ended just as neighbors were heading off to work and having their mid-morning coffee, was a burglary that took a very, very dark turn.

The seeds for this crime began when Komisarjevsky observed the mother and daughters in a supermarket parking lot and he liked what he saw. They were attractive and appeared to a family of some means. He followed them home, called his accomplice Hayes and the two quickly made plans to invade the Hawkes-Petit house in the middle of the night. Komisarjevsky as many will learn during his upcoming trial was adept at breaking into houses, no matter how well secured, and robbing the owners. Sometimes, as Brian McDonald reported in his nonfiction book, "In The Middle of the Night," a true account of the home invasion, Komisarjevsky would enjoy just sitting in the living room listening to the family sleeping.

Unfortunately for the Petit family, Komisarjevsky was not content to sitting and listening to a family sleeping. With the father of the family, a noted doctor, his hands and feet bound to a pole in the basement, these two criminals bound the two daughters to their bedposts and then waited until morning when the bank would open and Hayes would drive the mother to the bank to withdraw money.

While the mother was gone, Komisarjevsky was left with the two daughters. What happened next is too despicable to repeat. However, after Hayes' returned to the house with the mother, he then raped and strangled the mother.

Then, he and Komisarjevsky poured the gasoline that Hayes had bought during his trip to the bank and Komisarjevsky, allegedly lit a match that turned this two-story four bedroom colonial home into a burning inferno from which the daughters could not escape.

As of yet, we do not know if Hayes will be sentenced to death or life in prison. Komisarjevsky is yet to stand trial. Even though the current death penalty law will apply to this case, it is unfathomable that in the future in Connecticut, if some heinous crime like the Petit murders were to occur again, that there possibly would not be the death penalty.

The Petit case is not a crime about a burglary that went amok. It is about crimes against women. And we women need all the power that we can get to fight such evil in this world. Hayes tried to cut a deal. He wanted to plead guilty in turn for a life sentence. No deal, fortunately for all.

Dan Malloy has proven himself a fine municipal leader and his face-off with Tom Foley during that first televised debate was quite outstanding. I applaud him for all that he has accomplished with Stamford and all that I feel he will do in the future as governor. However, Malloy needs to rethink the death penalty. Who could imagine such evil lurks in our beloved New England landscape.

Dan Malloy, it is not suffice to say, the death penalty would still apply to Cheshire case, if the law is repealed. Hayes and Komisarjevsky are just two individuals. Evil is still out there and we need all the deterrents to reassure our safety.

Rita Papazian is a freelance writer who has covered Norwalk extensively. She can be reached at .

Copyright 2010 Rita Papazian All rights reserved.