Closing arguments were heard this week in the trial of Steven Hayes, one of the two men accused of perpetrating a home invasion and murder of a family in Connecticut. Prosecutors argued for the first time that Hayes was the one to ignite the fire that engulfed the Petit family's house, killing 17-year-old Hayley Petit and 11-year-old Michaela in the process. “The last one out is the one who lights the fire,” said prosecutor Michael Dearington.
The courtroom was darkened and jurors were shown photos of the Petit family and their burned house, as Dearington painted a final, gruesome portrait of the last minutes of the girls' lives: "Were they screaming in terror? Hayley and Michaela Petit knew their deaths were near...What did the defendant do while they were screaming for their lives? Did he lift a finger to help them?" At this point, the issue is not whether Hayes will be found guilty; it's whether he will recieve the death penalty for the brutal attack.
Defense lawyer Thomas Ullmann did not deny that his client raped and murdered Jennifer Hawke-Petit, nor that he committed arson, burglary and larceny. Instead, he tried to do damage control, blaming Hayes' partner Joshua Komisarjevsky for controlling the situation: "Steven Hayes is no angel. But he's not the one who controlled the escalating violence." He argued that Komisarjevsky changed the original plan, and set into motion the terrible events of the day by raping 11-year-old Michaela. “The psychopath in this case is Joshua Komisarjevsky, not Steven Hayes. He should pay the price for what he did, but not for what he did not do.” Jurors could come to a decision as early as Monday. Komisarjevsky is to be tried next year.