Steven Hayes, the ex-con who was found guilty of killing a Connecticut mother and her two daughters, was formally sentenced to death today in court. Superior Court Judge Jon C. Blue Blue handed down six sentences of death by lethal injection for the murders of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters, Hayley and Michaela., and set the execution date for May 27, 2011. “This is a terrible sentence, but is, in truth, a sentence you wrote for yourself in flames,” the judge told Hayes.

Hayes made his own statement, offering his apologies to Dr. William Petit, the only survivor of the brutal Connecticut home invasion: “My actions have hurt so many people, affected so many lives, caused so much pain. I am tormented and have nightmares about what happened in that house...There's not a moment that goes by that this does not weigh on my mind, especially since he suffered due to my actions. My suffering is meaningless compared to that of Dr. Petit. Death for me will be a welcome relief, and I hope it will bring some peace and comfort to those who I have hurt so much." The 47-year-old Hayes is only the second man who has been sentenced to death in Connecticut since 1960, and the ninth all time.

Dr. Petit also made a statement in court, saying he has received more than 15,000 letters of support from around the world; he also discussed his agony since the murder of his wife and daughters: "I seriously considered suicide many times...I had spent every waking moment, and there were plenty, thinking of that night and replaying everything that occurred over and over again...I miss my entire family, our home, everything we had together as a group. They cannot be replaced."

But the Times thinks Hayes may be in prison for some time to come. Lawyers for Hayes have already made court filings that sketch out appeals arguments that "are likely to occupy the courts for years." Among their arguments is that the media attention on the trial, including many reporters' use of Twitter, created a “circus atmosphere” which unfairly swayed public opinion, including that of the jury. “As I experienced it during this trial, I think there’s a real danger that the inclusion of new technology in the courtroom is affecting an individual’s fair-trial rights,” said Thomas J. Ullmann, Hayes’s chief defense lawyer. Hayes' partner in crime, Joshua Kominarjevsky, is due to go on trial next year.