NEW HAVEN —
It began again on Monday, in a claustrophobic courtroom here, and in coming days
there will be photographs of two girls killed in a fire, witnesses fighting back
tears and testimony about the night and day a family endured horror.
It is the second trial in the 2007 home invasion in Cheshire, Conn., that ended
with the killing of a mother and her two daughters and drew national attention
as an archetype of nightmarish suburban crime.
The first, highly publicized, trial began a year ago last week. After a litany
of gruesome testimony, it resulted in a death sentence for one of the attackers,
Steven J. Hayes.
On Monday, prosecutors began their quest for a death sentence against the other
middle-of-the-night intruder, Joshua Komisarjevsky, 31, a serial burglar and
drug abuser once described by a judge as a “calculated, cold-blooded predator.”
Walter C. Bansley III, one of the defense lawyers, began his opening statement
conceding many of the facts but blaming Mr. Hayes for turning the crime into a
homicide. "Joshua Komisarjevsky never intended to kill anyone," he said.
Mr. Bansley described Mr. Hayes as deciding on his own to rape the mother of the
family, to kill her and to burn the house down to kill the rest of the family.
He said Mr. Komisarjevsky had cognitive difficulties and was unable to make
quick decisions in stressful situations. "Not to be used as excuse," Mr. Bansley
added. He quoted Mr. Komisarjevsky’s confession to the police in which he
claimed he had told Mr. Hayes "no one is dying by my hand today."
Mr. Komisarjevsky sat quietly between his lawyers looking heavier and
considerably older than the wiry young man arrested outside the Petit house on
July 23, 2007.
A prosecutor, Michael Dearington, spoke for a few minutes, telling the jurors
simply: "We choose to present the evidence and we know that you will follow it."
The crime provoked criticism of the legal system here because the two men
charged were parolees who had met at a Connecticut halfway-house. The widespread
revulsion at the crime is also widely believed to have stalled what had seemed
to be a potent campaign to repeal the death penalty in Connecticut.
Despite the intense media attention that the trial of Mr. Hayes attracted, there
is little sign that people here have grown weary of the case. Mr. Komisarjevsky
has been cast by some, including his co-defendant, as the smarter and more
manipulative of the two, so the new trial is expected to tell an even darker
tale. “I am not the monster that Josh is,” Mr. Hayes once wrote.
Shortly after Judge Jon C. Blue of State Superior Court took the bench here on
Monday, Jeremiah Donovan, the chief defense lawyer started on a provocative
note, taking note on the record of the fact that many people in the "Petit
posse" were wearing Petit foundation pins within feet of the jury box, which the
defense has long argued is an unfair message in favor of the prosecution.
The defense lawyers for Mr. Komisarjevsky have signaled that they will wage a
more aggressive defense that may include a searing portrait of the defendant’s
life in an effort to avoid a verdict that could lead to a death sentence. They
have described their client, who was raped as a child, as “a damaged human
being” who did not intend to kill anyone when he burst into the Petit family
home on Sorghum Mill Drive.
Mr. Komisarjevsky, like Mr. Hayes, does not contest that he played a role in the
crime. Each offered to plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence. By now the
stomach-turning details of what happened inside the Petit home are achingly
familiar: The mother of the family, Jennifer Hawke-Petit, 48, was raped and
strangled, and her 11- and 17-year old daughters died of smoke inhalation after
the intruders tied them to their beds and set their house on fire.
The father of the family, Dr. William A. Petit Jr., was beaten with a baseball
bat and tied up but escaped and survived. He testified at Mr. Hayes’s trial and
is expected to take the stand again before a different jury here.
Mr. Komisarjevsky and Mr. Hayes have each blamed the other for turning what they
said was a search for valuables in the home of a successful doctor into a
twisted multiple murder.
Mr. Hayes’s lawyers argued during his trial last fall that it was Mr.
Komisarjevsky who changed the nature of the crime when he sexually assaulted the
11-year-old, Michaela Petit. Mr. Hayes has claimed that Mr. Komisarjevsky
directed him to “get rid of” Mrs. Hawke-Petit after Mr. Hayes had raped her.
But Mr. Komisarjevsky, in chilling prison journals that were read at Mr. Hayes’s
trial, claimed that it was Mr. Hayes who changed the nature of the crime by
strangling Mrs. Hawke-Petit. “He brought us both to a whole different level,”
Mr. Komisarjevsky wrote.
Mr. Komisarjevsky’s prison writings may play an important role in the new trial
as well. Though they may well be cited by both sides, all of the lawyers are
likely to concede that they are bleak.
Mr. Komisarjevsky wrote that he considered killing Mr. Hayes. He gratuitously
attacked the surviving victim, Dr. Petit, as a “coward.” He went to
extraordinary effort, bringing up his own history of as a victim of abuse, to
assert that he did not rape the 11-year old girl, but merely sexually assaulted
“I know what rape is, no one need explain it to me,” he wrote. He added that
“enduring month upon month of merciless abuse at the age of 5 and 6 have gained
me an insight of complete clarity.”
Mr. Komisarjevsky faces 17 counts, including kidnapping, burglary, arson,
assault and capital murder. If he is convicted, a second phase of the trial
would be held before the same jury to determine whether he would be sentenced to
Fla. — Casey Anthony, the young mother whose seeming heartlessness at the
disappearance of her daughter transfixed America for three years, was found not
guilty on Tuesday of killing the girl, Caylee Marie.
After nearly six weeks of testimony, a jury of seven women and five men rejected
the prosecution’s contention that Ms. Anthony had murdered Caylee, 2, by dosing
her with chloroform, suffocating her with duct tape and dumping her body in a
wooded area. They did, however, find her guilty of lesser charges of providing
false information to law enforcement officers.
In a sign that jurors had little difficulty reaching a verdict, the jury did not
ask to review any evidence and reached a decision in fewer than 11 hours.
Jurors, who were imported from the Clearwater area and had been sequestered for
six weeks, declined to talk with reporters and returned home to Pinellas County.
When the verdict was read, Ms. Anthony, 25, who faced a possible death sentence,
cried quietly, the relief made plain on her face. After the jury left the
courtroom, she broke down and sobbed, hugging her lawyer, Jose Baez, tightly.
She has spent about two and a half years in jail awaiting trial. She is expected
to be released soon because she is not likely to serve any more time for
misdemeanors. Ms. Anthony was also found not guilty of aggravated child abuse.
Her parents, George and Cindy, who lost a granddaughter and then listened in
court as Mr. Baez blamed the family for Caylee’s death, sat stone-faced after
the verdict was read. Prosecutors, who had entered the courthouse with broad
smiles and to cheers, sat stunned.
The defense had argued from the start that Caylee drowned accidentally in the
family swimming pool and that the death was concealed by a panicked George
Anthony and Casey Anthony.
It was unclear if that version of Caylee’s death swayed jurors. But the
circumstantial nature of the prosecution’s case seemed to be insurmountable.
There was no direct evidence tying Ms. Anthony to the death of her daughter.
Forensic evidence was tenuous, and no witnesses ever connected her to Caylee’s
death. Investigators found no traces of Ms. Anthony’s DNA or irrefutable signs
of chloroform or decomposition inside the trunk of Ms. Anthony’s car, where
prosecutors said she stashed Caylee before disposing of her body. The
prosecution was also hurt by the fact that nobody knows exactly when or how
Caylee died; her body was too badly decomposed to pinpoint cause of death. And
it permitted Mr. Baez, Ms. Anthony’s lawyer, to create a reasonable doubt in
jurors’ minds — despite the prosecution’s relentless portrayal of her as a
callous liar who sought to kill Caylee so she could lead a carefree life of
boyfriends and bars.
“The best feeling I have today is I know I can go home and my daughter will ask
me, ‘What did you do today?’ and I can say, ‘I saved a life,’ ” Mr. Baez said at
a news conference.
Mr. Baez also denounced the death penalty, saying Ms. Anthony’s acquittal is an
example of why “we all need to stop and look and think twice about a country
that decides to kill its own citizens.”
This case was widely reported in real time through Twitter and cable television,
and outrage over the verdict came swiftly as did criticism of the news media.
But the public was equally captivated by the trial, with some people flying in
to grab a hard-to-get seat in the courtroom.
Cheney Mason, Mr. Baez’s co-counsel, sharply criticized reporters and pundits
for “media assassination” in maligning Ms. Anthony and sprinting to an
assumption of guilt.
“I can tell you that my colleagues coast to coast and border to border have
condemned this whole process of lawyers getting on television to talk about
cases they don’t know a damn thing about,” Mr. Mason said.
Outside, Lawson Lamar, the state attorney for the Ninth Judicial Court, praised
prosecutors for their meticulous work but added that it was a tough trial
because it was a “dry bones case,” a reference to Caylee’s decomposed state,
with “no smoking gun.”
Caylee was last seen June 16, 2008. Her remains were found Dec. 11 in a wooded
lot near the Anthony home. Ms. Anthony failed to report Caylee missing for 31
days and created a tangle of lies, including that a baby sitter kidnapped
Caylee, to cover up the absence.
The defense conceded Ms. Anthony’s lies, but said they happened for one reason:
she had been sexually abused by her father and had been coached to lie her whole
Prosecutors argued all along that Ms. Anthony killed her child so she could
carouse with her boyfriend, go clubbing and live the “bella vita” — beautiful
life — as her tattoo, done after Caylee’s disappearance, proclaimed. They used
jailhouse recordings of Ms. Anthony and photographs of her reveling with friends
to show she was clearly not grieving.
One prosecutor, Jeff Ashton, called it “absurd” that Mr. Anthony, a former
homicide detective, would find Caylee dead in the swimming pool and, rather than
call 911, cover up the drowning, wrap dead Caylee’s face with duct tape and dump
“It is a trip down a rabbit hole into a bizarre world where men who love their
granddaughters find them drowned and do nothing,” Mr. Ashton said.
Mr. Anthony, who had testified tearfully during the trial, denied abusing his
daughter and finding Caylee in the swimming pool.
Prosecutors failed to offer evidence or testimony that showed Ms. Anthony was
actually a bad or negligent mother.
From the start of the trial, Mr. Baez, who began his law career in 2005 and
three years later landed Ms. Anthony as a client, was often pilloried for his
risky opening argument — the drowning and sexual abuse theories — and his
failure to bolster that defense during the trial.
Mr. Baez delved lightly into the idea that Caylee drowned and said nothing more
about the sexual abuse after the first day of the trial. Judge Belvin Perry Jr.,
the presiding judge who also heads the Ninth Circuit Court, barred Mr. Baez from
mentioning the abuse accusation during closing statements because there was no
evidence to support his claim.
Yet Mr. Baez successfully hammered away at the nearly 400 pieces of evidence
that were recovered, including Ms. Anthony’s car. He also accused prosecutors of
relying on faulty science to bolster their case and labeled the state’s work
As the trial continued, Mr. Baez cast Mr. Anthony as the villain who covered up
the drowning and allowed Ms. Anthony to take the blame. And he detailed what he
viewed as the Anthony family’s dysfunctional behavior.
The sheriff’s office also faced criticism for failing to find Caylee’s remains
in August 2008, when a meter reader, Roy Kronk, reported a suspicious item for
three consecutive days. On the third day, deputies met the reader at the crime
scene, where he pointed to the area from a distance. Mr. Kronk testified that
deputies found nothing and were dismissive. Caylee’s body decomposed over six
In closing statements, Mr. Baez reminded jurors that the burden of proof rested
entirely with prosecutors and pleaded that they keep their emotions in check
“This case should not be decided for or against anyone because you feel sorry
for anyone or are angry at anyone,” Mr. Baez told the jury.
She had been on the witness stand for some eight hours
spanning two days, recounting gruesome, emotional details of an evening in which
she said a police officer raped her, when a moment of levity interrupted.
The defense lawyer questioning her, Joseph Tacopina, was asking her on Friday if
she had “falsely” accused his client, Officer Kenneth Moreno, of contacting her
mother and brother.
The prosecution objected, and the judge suggested that “mistakenly” might be a
better characterization. The woman, staring pointedly at Mr. Tacopina, told him
with the aplomb of a seasoned jurist, “Sorry, rephrase.”
Laughter broke out through the courtroom, and the woman cracked her first
discernible smile from the witness box.
Friday was the first full day of the much anticipated cross-examination of the
prosecution’s star witness — the 29-year-old accuser — in the rape trial of
Officer Moreno and his partner, Officer Franklin Mata.
Typically, the cross-examination of the central witness in a prosecution is an
opportunity for defense lawyers to smear the witness’s credibility, ruffle the
witness and be combative. It is often a time for courtroom theatrics.
But not on Friday. The woman remained calm and confident, flexed her intellect
and even went on the attack in a few instances.
Mr. Tacopina, for his part, appeared to make a strategic decision to be gentle —
the notion being that hostility toward a sympathetic figure might not play well
with the jury. When he began his questioning on Thursday, Mr. Tacopina even told
the woman to let him know if she needed a break at any time.
Edward Mandery, the lawyer representing Officer Mata, said the same thing when
he began his cross-examination late Friday afternoon. Mr. Mandery will resume
his questioning on Monday.
Despite their approach, the defense lawyers were still aggressive in trying to
portray the woman, who has testified to having been very drunk the night she
said she was raped, as someone who could not remember details of what happened
and who had an ulterior motive. She has a $57 million lawsuit pending against
the city and the officers.
Mr. Tacopina read from e-mail and Facebook messages the woman exchanged with
friends in the days after the officers escorted her up to her fifth-floor
apartment in December 2008 and she says she was raped, pointing out minor
inconsistencies between what she said then and what she was saying now.
Of an e-mail to her roommate, who was in London, the woman testified that she
wrote that she was “O.K.” and that the episode was not “violent or aggressive.”
She also testified that she had told a nurse at the hospital she went to that
she was not physically hurt. But, she explained, she thought the nurse meant
from an act like being punched. And she said she had tried to play down the
episode to her roommate so as not to worry her.
“When something like this happens to you, the shock is so surreal,” she said,
her lips quivering in her most visibly emotional moment of the day.
“When you are just trying to figure out what you need to do afterwards,” she
added, “you tell people you’re O.K., even though you’re not, because you’re
trying to get through it.”
Mr. Tacopina got the woman to concede that she had told hospital staff members
that she believed the assault was between midnight and 1 a.m., even though she
testified during the trial that she had no recollection of time.
Officer Moreno and Officer Mata had been sent to the woman’s East Village
address after a cabdriver reported she was too drunk to get out of the taxi.
The woman acknowledged on Friday that in a surveillance video of her walking
into her apartment building with the officers, it appeared that she was moving
her lips, perhaps bolstering the defense argument that she was coherent enough
to have a conversation with them. (Mr. Tacopina has said Officer Moreno was
counseling the woman that night about her drinking.)
Mr. Tacopina tried to show that the woman was less certain about what happened
that night than she had let on in court. He introduced several statements she
supposedly made to friends, memorialized in e-mails or investigators’ notes.
In one of the statements, the woman supposedly told a friend that “I think I was
just raped” and that she was “pretty sure it was by a cop.”
But the woman insisted she had never expressed uncertainty about what had
happened that night.
“I never said I believe I was raped,” she testified. “I knew I was raped.”
She added that several of those statements were notes written by an
investigator, not her.
“Honestly,” she said, “everybody was so shocked that it was the cops, it seemed
October 1, 2010
The New York Times
By WILLIAM GLABERSON
NEW HAVEN — A prosecutor at the trial of one of the two men
accused of invading a home and murdering a woman and her two daughters contended
on Friday for the first time that it was the defendant, Steven J. Hayes, who
ignited the fire that killed the girls.
In his closing argument, the prosecutor, Michael Dearington, reminded jurors of
testimony that Mr. Hayes ran from the house following the other suspect, Joshua
“The last one out is the one who lights the fire,” Mr. Dearington said.
In a courtroom darkened so jurors could see slides of the victims and their home
in Cheshire, Conn., which was ruined by an arson fire after a home invasion,
rape and murder in 2007, Mr. Dearington repeatedly emphasized that no matter how
much of a role Mr. Komisarjevsky had in the crime, Mr. Hayes played a crucial
role and personally committed many of the acts involved.
Mr. Komisarjevsky has been a central focus of Mr. Hayes’s trial, though he has
not been in the courtroom.
The two men face the possibility of the death penalty. Mr. Komisarjevsky is to
be tried later.
Mr. Dearington, speaking unemotionally but somberly, reminded jurors that soon
after his arrest Mr. Hayes told an officer that “things got out of control.”
“It wasn’t ‘things,’ ” he continued. “It was two people acting together.”
Mr. Dearington also reminded the jurors that Mr. Hayes admitted to having had
sex with and then killing the mother of the family, Jennifer Hawke-Petit.
“Hayes had sex — having sex is not the right term — brutally raped” her, the
In his summation, Mr. Hayes’s lawyer, Thomas J. Ullmann, offered a defense that
seemed geared toward saving his client from the death penalty, but not
establishing his innocence, while putting the blame on Mr. Komisarjevsky.
Mr. Ullmann conceded many of the charges against his client, including those
that he raped and killed Ms. Hawke-Petit.
Speaking softly and occasionally shaking his head at the acts his client
committed, he also said Mr. Hayes had committed arson, burglary and larceny.
And Mr. Ullmann conceded that Mr. Hayes took part in the kidnapping of all four
members of the family, including the two girls, Michaela, 11, and Hayley, 17,
who died from smoke inhalation, and their father, Dr. William A. Petit Jr., who
was beaten but survived.
But Mr. Ullmann said that Mr. Komisarjevsky was the one controlling events; he
portrayed Mr. Hayes as someone who never could have committed the crimes.
He said Mr. Hayes had not known that Mr. Komisarjevsky would change what he said
had been their plan: break in, tie up the family, take money and get out.
Instead, Mr. Ullmann argued, Mr. Komisarjevsky changed the plan first by beating
Dr. Petit and then by raping Michaela.
“The psychopath in this case is Joshua Komisarjevsky, not Steven Hayes,” Mr.
“He should pay the price for what he did,” Mr. Ullmann argued about his client,
“but not for what he did not do.”
Connecticut law generally requires what lawyers call “death plus” for a crime to
warrant capital punishment.
As a result, Mr. Hayes could be sentenced to life in prison for killing Ms.
Hawke-Petit, but committing a murder during the course of the rape would be a
Mr. Ullmann argued that the rape of Ms. Hawke-Petit that Mr. Hayes confessed to
might have been separate from his later strangulation of her.
Killing Michaela would make Mr. Hayes eligible for the death penalty because it
is a capital offense under Connecticut law to kill a person who is younger than
Mr. Ullmann devoted a good deal of his remarks to arguing that Mr. Komisarjevsky
had a motive to kill the child: to cover up his sexual assault.
The 12 jurors and 2 remaining alternates were attentive to both arguments. In
keeping with the reserved tone of the lawyers, they appeared unemotional.
A few of them nodded as lawyers for both sides pieced together narratives from
what has often been disjointed, emotional testimony during the three-week trial.
Deliberations are to begin on Monday after the judge, Jon C. Blue of State
Superior Court, gives the jurors legal instructions.
If Mr. Hayes is convicted of capital offenses, the same jury will hear a
separate penalty phase of the trial.
The lawyers for both sides acknowledged the wrenching nature of the case.
Mr. Dearington displayed a family photograph of Ms. Hawke-Petit and her
daughters for the jury on a large screen. But he referred to other photographs
in evidence, like those of burned bodies.
He thanked the jurors for enduring “what has been indescribable evidence.”
Mr. Ullmann said the “the tragedy of this incident has affected us deeply — all
When he claimed that Mr. Hayes had killed Ms. Hawke-Petit “at the behest of” Mr.
Komisarjevsky, Mr. Hayes, who was slumping at the defense table, did not stir.
In the end, Mr. Dearington argued, it did not really matter precisely which
intruder took which action. Both were responsible, he said.
And, he said, both men had a problem because of the series of crimes they had
“The solution was to destroy the house,” the prosecutor said to the jurors,
“and, you may find, the people in it.”
September 27, 2007
The New York Times
By RANDAL C. ARCHIBOLD
LOS ANGELES, Sept. 26 — The murder trial of the music producer Phil Spector
ended on Wednesday in a mistrial after the jury, leaning heavily to convict him,
could not reach a unanimous verdict.
The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office said it planned to retry the
Mr. Spector, 67, charged with second-degree murder in the killing of Lana
Clarkson in his home in 2003, stared blankly forward as Judge Larry Paul Fidler
of Superior Court ended the proceedings after the jury foreman had reported a
The impasse occurred after an earlier deadlock of 7-5 that jurors later said
also tilted toward conviction. That impasse led the judge to take the unusual
step of sending the jurors back to deliberate with new instructions, angering
Three jurors, speaking to reporters afterward, said the two holdouts gave
credence to a defense assertion that the death of Ms. Clarkson, 40, a struggling
actress, might have been a suicide rather than a murder.
The three jurors said the jury had also been troubled by the lack of large
amounts of blood on Mr. Spector and the poor English of a witness, Mr. Spector’s
driver, who said he had heard Mr. Spector say, “I think I killed somebody.”
Judge Fidler retained orders for silence, preventing lawyers and others in the
case from speaking publicly. He set a hearing for Oct. 3.
Mr. Spector, the mastermind behind hits like “Da Doo Ron Ron” and “Be My Baby,”
escorted by his wife, lawyers and bodyguards, left through an adjacent courtroom
without saying a word, free on bail.
He joins Michael Jackson, O. J. Simpson and Robert Blake among celebrities whom
Southern California prosecutors have failed to convict in high-profile criminal
Alan Jackson, a lead prosecutor in the case, sat glumly in a courthouse hallway
as a spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office reiterated the judge’s order
barring him from speaking.
“We’re disappointed the jury was unable to reach a verdict in this case, and we
will immediately begin preparations for a retrial,” the spokeswoman, Sandi
Gibbons, said later at a news conference. She declined to comment further.
Mr. Spector was accused of killing Ms. Clarkson, whom he had met at a nightclub
hours before she was found dead from a gunshot wound to her mouth in the foyer
of Mr. Spector’s house in a Los Angeles suburb.
Prosecutors said Mr. Spector shot Ms. Clarkson in an alcohol-fueled rage after
she had resisted his advances. They presented testimony from five other women
who described similar threats by Mr. Spector.
The prosectors failed to present forensic evidence that placed the gun in Mr.
Spector’s hand and relied instead on a spray of blood on his clothes.
The defense, portraying Ms. Clarkson as despondent over her career and finances,
presented experts and scientific evidence to buttress their assertion that she
had shot herself, intentionally or not. They said the pattern of blood indicated
that Mr. Spector was too far away to have pulled the trigger.
One juror who declined to give his name said he voted to convict, because given
“the totality of the evidence, what was the most plausible reason she could have
Another juror suggested that a psychological profile of Ms. Clarkson by
prosecutors might have indicated whether she had been suicidal.
The jury foreman said some jurors were troubled with the statement from Mr.
Spector’s driver, Adriano De Souza, a Brazilian immigrant, who admitted having
problems with English.
The case was remarkable for the virtual second chance the judge gave prosecutors
after the jury reported a deadlock on Sept. 10, having deliberated for seven
Judge Fidler removed an instruction that they considered confusing, ruling that
it misstated the law on second-degree murder, and read them new instructions
that, to the fury of the defense, included a few situations in which Mr. Spector
could have killed Ms. Clarkson.
Jean Rosenbluth, a former federal prosecutor and University of Southern
California law professor who monitored the case, said there was little more
prosecutors could have done.
Professor Rosenbluth said she doubted that jurors were impressed by Mr.
Spector’s celebrity, as he was a behind-the-scenes figure and his fame had faded
from the 1960s and early ’70s.
She suggested that the defense had succeeded in creating doubt about the
prosecution case with expert witnesses and said prosecutors had erred in not
pushing hard for the jury to consider a lesser charge of involuntary
“A lot people may say this is just like the other cases, but he was not
acquitted,” Professor Rosenbluth said. “He was almost convicted. I think this
says much more about money than celebrity and the resources money can buy when
you are on trial.”
It was the first televised Los Angeles celebrity trial since the Simpson case in
1995, but it did not attract the following or frenzied coverage of that or other
Mr. Spector has not been behind a hit in decades. He is best known in music
circles for his Wall of Sound technique, marrying lush orchestral arrangements
to guitars and other staples of pop music. A member of the Rock and Roll Hall of
Fame, he collaborated with top rock stars, including the Beatles.
Filed at 3:24 a.m. ET
The New York Times
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Wis. -- Nearly a year after a 16-year-old shot and killed his principal, jurors
will be asked to decide if he was a bullied, immature child or a murderer bent
Eric Hainstock is charged with first-degree murder and is being tried as an
adult in the shooting death of Weston Schools Principal John Klang. If
convicted, he could face life in prison. Hainstock's trial was to begin
According to a criminal complaint, Hainstock told detectives he took guns to
Weston the morning of Sept. 29 because he was upset that Klang and other school
officials had done nothing to stop fellow students from teasing him. He told
investigators he wanted to make people listen to him.
But Klang rushed him in a school hallway and tackled him. Hainstock told
detectives he shot the principal three times during the struggle. A wounded
Klang managed to take the gun from Hainstock.
Sauk County District Attorney Pat Barrett has portrayed Hainstock as a selfish
liar who reacts violently whenever adults tell him what to do. He is expected to
introduce evidence at the trial that in the two weeks leading up to the
shooting, Hainstock threw a stapler at a teacher and a book at a student, saying
''I am going to laugh when everyone in this school gets hurt.''
Hainstock's attorneys, public defenders Rhoda Ricciardi and Jon Helland, have
said Hainstock was bullied and that teachers looked the other way.
February 23, 2007
The New York Times
By ANEMONA HARTOCOLLIS
When Steven Johnson, an unemployed barber who has AIDS,
stormed an East Village bar in 2002 armed with a samurai sword, three pistols
and kerosene, by most accounts he was propelled by one thought: He would die in
a fusillade of police bullets, and his family would then be able to sell his
prophetic words and use the proceeds to start a new life.
Only it did not happen that way. He did not die. He did not kill anyone. His
family did not sell his story. And now he is on trial — for a second time — on
charges of hate crimes, assault and the attempted murder of a police officer. As
for the fame he sought, that seems nonexistent as well: aside from an initial
burst of attention, his trial has taken place in an all but empty courtroom.
In the early hours of June 16, 2002, Mr. Johnson took the subway from his
housing project in Brooklyn to the East Village, looking for “happy people” and
seeking to avenge the oppression of black people like him, according to a
statement he later gave to the police.
He shot and wounded three people and sprayed several patrons with kerosene at
Bar Veloce on Second Avenue, threatening to set them on fire. He was eventually
tackled by two women in the bar, then shot and wounded by the police.
To the prosecution, this is a case of attempted “suicide by cop” by a man with a
record of weapons and drug arrests going back two decades. He may have been
antisocial, the prosecutor said, but he was not mentally ill; he rationally,
calculatingly, set out to harm others and gain fame for himself and fortune for
To the defense, these were the acts of a madman, who is so delusional that he
cannot be held legally responsible for what he did.
Prosecutors have given the jury a copy of a long suicide note that Mr. Johnson
left behind for his 10-year-old son, telling him, “Trust me, you will be famest
and a star just cause of me, and cause I follow Gods word.”
During the closing argument yesterday in State Supreme Court in Manhattan, the
prosecutor, Peter Hinckley, played a tape of Mr. Johnson giving himself a kind
of pep talk as he prepared to take his journey to the East Village.
Mr. Johnson could be heard talking in a slow, quiet, hypnotic voice, telling
himself that he had God on his side, and urging himself on by saying, “Pull your
guns on these crackers, son.” In the background, the incongruous sound of a
child’s happy, playful voice was heard as Mr. Johnson carried on his monologue.
Mr. Johnson’s lawyer, Michelle Gelernt, of the Legal Aid Society, told the jury
in her closing argument that Mr. Johnson’s words in the suicide note and on the
tape were clear evidence that he was delusional.
“Somehow, his taking those white people hostage and burning them alive and
having police kill him would cause a revolution,” she said, while anybody in his
right mind, she argued, would expect no such thing.
But to Mr. Hinckley, the prosecutor, Mr. Johnson’s words were evidence not of
mental illness but of a widespread phenomenon familiar to anyone who watches
“American Idol” on television.
Mr. Johnson was simply media-crazed, and determined to get his 15 minutes of
fame, the prosecutor said.
“The defendant didn’t have any command hallucinations,” or orders from God
telling him to kill white people, Mr. Hinckley said. Rather, “he knew he would
create media attention” by shooting up a bar, and he wanted his family to profit
from his 15 minutes of “notoriety.”
Mr. Hinckley rattled off a long list of other people he said were similarly
obsessed by fame, perhaps criminal in some cases but not insane. The list
included Mel Gibson, Osama bin Laden, Timothy McVeigh, abortion clinic bombers,
Palestinian and Iraqi suicide bombers, members of the Aryan Nations, and any
number of amateur singers competing on “American Idol.”
“They are clearly grandiose and have strongly and passionately held beliefs,” he
said, but they were not delusional in the clinical sense.
Mr. Hinckley was scheduled to end his closing argument today, before the case
goes to a jury for the second time. Mr. Johnson’s first trial ended in a
mistrial in November 2004, when the jury deadlocked after two and a half weeks
Yesterday, Ms. Gelernt said Mr. Johnson, who is 39, had told a psychologist that
he had a “sixth sense” and that he believed that people were “scheming on him.”
She urged the jury to interpret that sixth sense as something spiritual, a
connection to God, while the prosecution’s psychiatric expert dismissed the
phrase as a synonym for “street sense.”
Ms. Gelernt described part of Mr. Johnson’s past that could have been a chapter
from “The Fortress of Solitude,” the acclaimed novel about a black boy and a
white boy growing up in Brooklyn who fancy themselves superheroes. She said that
Mr. Johnson’s mother had taught him to sew when he was a teenager, and that he
sewed costumes of Spider-Man and Superman for himself. It was not clear, she
said, whether he actually wore those costumes on the street, but certainly he
had fantasized about being a superhero.
She quoted Mr. Johnson, who is black, telling psychologists, “There’s no war in
the ghetto, but there’s a war in my mind,” and that he was “throwing rocks of
words” as a way of educating people to the oppression of black people by white
Mr. Hinckley, however, argued that if Mr. Johnson was trying to get revenge on
white people, he would not have been cooperative with the white staff at the
hospital and jail where he was held, or with his white defense lawyers.
He said that while Mr. Johnson had a history of what he called “conduct
disorders,” like fighting with other children and breaking things in childhood,
he had not been hospitalized for psychiatric problems as an adult.
Mr. Johnson’s actions were criminal and antisocial, he said, but not driven by
mental illness. They were, he said, “the actions of a sane, manipulative man,
fully aware of what he did.”
January 27, 1995
The New York Times
By Neil A. Lewis
Sometime this spring, after all the DNA experts have
testified, after all the photos of Nicole Brown Simpson's bruises have been
pored over, after all the witnesses have testified to when and where they saw
the white Bronco, Judge Lance A. Ito will turn to jurors and tell them to decide
the guilt or innocence of O. J. Simpson.
The judge will tell them that the standard upon which they must make their
decision is whether the state has proved its case "beyond a reasonable doubt."
It sounds simple enough. But how best to explain the concept of "reasonable
doubt" to juries has vexed judges, legal scholars and appeals courts for more
than two centuries.
The concept of reasonable doubt is the barely-hidden debate lodged within the
opening statements of the two sides this week in the Simpson trial. It is what
Johnnie L. Cochran Jr., the defense lawyer, was aiming at when he offered jurors
an alternative explanation of the slayings and when he asserted that Mrs.
Simpson had blood of unexplained origin under her fingernails.
Mr. Cochran's purpose is to have one or more jurors say in the jury room
something like this: "Well, maybe he did it, but what about that blood under the
fingernails? I mean, who knows? Isn't that a reasonable doubt?"
Marcia Clark, a prosecutor, wants the jury room discussion to sound more like
this: "Come on, given the trail of blood and the other evidence, it's
unreasonable to think that O.J. didn't do it."
The notion of "beyond a reasonable doubt," the standard in American criminal
trials, dates to the 18th century. When British troops arrived in Boston in 1770
to quell disturbances, they fired on a crowd killing five people.
In the trials following the Boston Massacre, historians report that the judge
told the jurors that "if upon the whole, ye are in any reasonable doubt of their
guilt, ye must then, agreeable to the rule of law, declare them innocent."
John Adams defended the nine British soldiers and won acquittals for all but
two, who were convicted of manslaughter; they were branded on their thumbs as a
The reasonable-doubt standard is supposed to be higher than two others in
American law: a "preponderance of the evidence" used in most civil trials and
"clear and convincing evidence" used in extraordinary civil cases like loss of
citizenship, civil commitment and taking custody of children.
For most of American history, jurors have been told to equate guilt beyond a
reasonable doubt with "moral certainty," a phrase from an 1850 decision of the
Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, written by its Chief Justice, Lemuel Shaw.
Justice Shaw in Commonwealth v. Webster defined reasonable doubt as a mental
state in which jurors "cannot say they feel an abiding conviction, to a moral
certainty, of the truth of the charge."
Many states, including California, relied on the moral-certainty component of
the instructions until March of last year when the Supreme Court said the
language had outlived its usefulness. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor got to the
heart of the matter when she measured the words used in the instructions to
juries by referring to a set of modern dictionaries.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in a separate opinion, strongly recommended that
states consider a model jury instruction suggested in 1987 by the Federal
Judicial Center, a research arm of the Federal judiciary.
The key sentence of the recommended instructions is as simple as can be. It
reads: "Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is proof that leaves you firmly
convinced of the defendant's guilt." Justice Ginsburg said such a definition
would be succinct and comprehensible to juries.
But perhaps nothing is as succinct as the instructions used in France. The
French, who rely on a panel of lay people and judges, ask them to consider this
simple question: "Are you thoroughly convinced?"
Jon O. Newman, the chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the
Second Circuit, in New York, in a November 1993 article in the New York
University Law Review, wrote that a curious feature of a judge's instructions
about "reasonable doubt" is that trial courts are reluctant to explain it to
"I find it unsettling that we are using a formulation that we believe will
become less clear the more we explain it," he said.
All of which suggests that this part of the law is far from an exact science and
more akin to alchemy.
Correction: January 30, 1995,
Monday The At the Bar column on
misstated the year of the Boston Massacre in some editions.
ATLANTA— ON different sides of the country, in different worlds of power and
influence, Susan V. Smith and O. J. Simpson are accused of murder by unspeakable
means. The difference is in the price the criminal-justice system will exact if
they are convicted, in a nation where the application of the death penalty is
In Union, S.C., prosecutors say Mrs. Smith, 23, a woman once unknown outside the
little mill town where she was born, drowned her two young sons in a dark lake
and lied to the outside world for nine days in October, claiming a young black
man stole her babies as she stood screaming at the side of the road. She made
about $17,000 a year, worked as a secretary in a textile mill and drove a Mazda.
Prosecutors want her to die in the electric chair.
In Los Angeles, prosecutors say the famous Mr. Simpson, who once ran untouched
through N.F.L. defenses and television rent-a-car commercials, stalked and
viciously cut and stabbed to death his former wife and her companion. He had
assets of about $10 million, in mansions, beachfront condos and Ferraris. Mr.
Simpson, whose trial begins tomorrow, does not face California's death penalty.
At first glance, or sniff, it smells. Why is a rich and famous person spared the
ultimate penalty, yet it looms over a relatively poor, obscure one?
Somewhat surprisingly, respected legal experts on either side of the capital
punishment debate say that while money is often an issue, it was not the driving
influence in the prosecutorial decisions in how to proceed against Mr. Simpson
and Ms. Smith.
The 'Mirror Theory'
This time, they say, the key factor is what prosecutors see in the faces of
their communities, what law professors and lawyers call "the mirror theory."
"The life-and-death decision is made on trivial grounds, and tends to reflect
the community's prejudices," said Franklin Zimring, director of the Earl Warren
Legal Institute at the University of California at Berkeley.
In the past, the mirror has borne a predictable image. People on death row are
still disproportionately poor and black. But this time the black defendant is
wealthy and famous, and it is the white female defendant who is on trial for her
life -- a rare prospect for execution, since only one woman has been put to
death since the Supreme Court allowed executions to resume in 1976.
To make a death-penalty case forcefully, prosecutors still have to pursue a
strategy not entirely unlike those of race-baiting prosecutors in the past. They
have to transform a client from one of "us," a member of the human community, to
one of "them," the predators who would destroy it.
That is hard to do with a football hero, and much easier with a mill worker
accused of drowning her babies, even if she was an honors student voted "most
friendly" in high school, said lawyers who specialize in death penalty cases.
"Simpson is like a member of the family, so much a part of American life," said
Stephen Bright, an Atlanta attorney and expert on capital murder trials. "As a
result, it is much more like having a friend or family member accused of a
crime. Susan Smith is defined publicly only by the crime."
There are other factors, said Mr. Bright, not the least of which is geography.
South Carolina, which leads the nation in incarcerations per capita, has a
reputation as a law-and-order state. When Mrs. Smith was formally charged, a
bloodthirsty crowd outside the courthouse screamed its outrage, saying she
should be locked in a car and drowned in the same lake where her children,
3-year-old Michael and 14-month-old Alex, died.
"This is an opportunity for national publicity," said Mr. Bright, "to exploit
the death penalty politically."
Even though capital punishment statistically appears to be no real deterrent to
crime, and even though it has wrecked county budgets -- some counties have had
to raise taxes to finance capital murder trials, which are more expensive that
other criminal trials -- the embrace of the death penalty is driven by "the
passion of the moment," said Mr. Bright.
The prosecutor, Thomas Pope, said last week he decided to seek the death penalty
after hearing the views of hundreds of people, including the family of Mrs.
Smith and her estranged husband, David.
Not everyone in Union County clamored for retribution in kind. Sheriff Howard
Wells took a political risk when he said it would be better to spare his county
the media spotlight and expense, emotional and financial, of a capital trial.
"What the Los Angeles prosecutor did was, on balance, braver than what the South
Carolina prosecutor did," said Mr. Zimring.
But politics was also a driving force in the Simpson case. Los Angeles County
prosecutors knew that putting a national hero on trial for his life might
alienate the public and the jury that is drawn from it. The Los Angeles County
Prosecutor, Gil Garcetti, "engaged in damage control," said Mr. Bright,
explaining that if Mr. Garcetti had pushed for the death penalty, he might have
guaranteed an acquittal.
Choosing not to seek the death penalty against Mr. Simpson, however, was not a
departure from the norm in Los Angeles County. His case -- loosely defined as
"domestic," involving a defendant with no felony convictions -- did not fit the
profile for successfully prosecuted capital crime in California.
The decision was made by a prosecutors' screening committee that looked at all
aspects of the case. Some prosecutors also discussed the matter with black
leaders in Los Angeles. Mr. Garcetti's office issued a short statement
acknowledging the concerns of the community, but said the decision not to seek
the death penalty came "independent of those concerns." Mr. Simpson instead
faces life in prison if convicted.
The Family of 'Us'
In the South Carolina case, Mrs. Smith said she was distraught over personal
problems and close to suicide, and planned to die with her children. Somewhere,
somehow, she supposedly changed her mind, but not soon enough to save her
But many in Union believe she killed her children because a man she had been
dating said he was not ready for "a ready-made family."
It is her attorney's job to humanize her, to bring her back into the family of
"us," and in that she has an expert in David Bruck, one of the nation's most
respected defense attorneys in capital cases.
"It's very frustrating that I can't tell her story now," said Mr. Bruck, who
will wait for the trial. "If I could, the public would take a different view."
Ernest van den Haag, a retired professor of law and public policy at Fordham
University, believes in the death penalty and says both crimes are brutal enough
to warrant it. But he does not believe Mr. Simpson, because of who he is, was
ever in any real danger of getting the death penalty. And he thinks it is a
tactical mistake to seek the death penalty in the Smith case, as it would have
been in the Simpson case. "Public opinion is against Mrs. Smith now," he said,
"but it will shift in her favor."
Mr. van den Haag added that the death penalty, like any form of punishment, is
never exact. "It's a lottery," he said.
Photos: O. J. Simpson does not face execution.
(Reuters); Susan V. Smith
does. (Associated Press)