Hayes Sentenced To Death

Moments after a Judge formally sentenced Steven Hayes to die for his role in a triple-murder in Cheshire, his defense attorney said his client is already “dead inside.”

Hayes was sentenced Thursday morning in Superior Court on Church Street in New Haven. Judge Jon C. Blue handed down six death sentences to Hayes, whom a jury had found guilty of a variety charges stemming from a brutal home invasion, sexual assault, arson, and murder in Cheshire in 2007. That murder took the wife and daughters of Cheshire doctor, William Petit.

In an emotional courtroom scene, Petit said on Thursday morning that he has considered suicide many times since the murder of his family. Read his statement here.

Petit’s tearful statement was a marked contrast with courtroom remarks from Hayes. Reading from a statement laid out in bold type, Hayes flatly expressed his gratitude for the death sentence. He has attempted suicide in the past. Read Hayes’ statement here.

Hayes said he cannot find the words to express his regret for his actions. He said he is tormented by the memories of the incident and welcomed death as a relief.

Afterward, outside the courthouse, Hayes’ defense attorneys, Tom Ullman and Patrick Culligan, faced a phalanx of TV cameras. They spoke about Hayes’ desire to die and decried the death sentence.

“I was embarrassed for us as a society,” Ullman said. “It was a a barbaric sentence.”

Culligan said Hayes is a “very severely depressed person.”

“He’s what you saw of him,” Ullman (pictured below) said to the reporters. He’s emotionless, he said. “He’s basically dead inside. Just a shell of a human being.”

Previous Independent coverage of the Petit trial:

Day One: Deceptive Calm
Day Two: It Was All About “The Girls”
Day Three: Defense Strategy Emerges: Spread The Blame
Day Four: Pieces Fall Into Place
Day Five: Numbers Tell A Story
Day Six: Suffering Takes Center Stage
• Day Seven: A Gagged Order
Day Eight: A Quilt & A Puppet Theater Bring Home The Horror
Day Nine: It’s About Specific Intent
• Day Ten: The Notes Told The Tale
Day 11: To Save A Life, Lawyers Must Humanize Alleged Monster
Days Twelve & Thirteen: A Life, In Context
This Time Around, Petit Jurors Are Yawning, Chuckling
Will “Coward” = Death?
Is 11 Enough?
2 Men In A Courtroom, 2 Living Hells
• No Rush To Judgement
Hayes Condemned, “Thrilled”

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posted by: Gary Doyens on December 2, 2010  2:56pm

Attorney Ullman:
For this sentence to be barbaric, Hayes would be put to death in the same manner in which he took the lives of this family. You sir, don’t know what barbarism is and clearly don’t recognize it when you see it. Ironically, you’ve been sitting next to it for months. please don’t hide behind the “I’m being a good lawyer” mantra. We’re past that now.

As for Hayes being a severely depressed, a mere shell of a man now, Attorney Culligan: What if Hayes had gotten away? Do you think he would be a shell of a man living large on the Petit’s money? I think not.

posted by: Question on December 2, 2010  2:56pm

Ok.  Hayes was emotionless and was quoted as being dead inside and sorry for what he’s done…
So, what the hell did he do it for if he’s going to be this remorseful.  People nowadays are crazy!
My heart goes out to Mr Petit and I pray he finds solace in this time.  I know he said he thought about suicide, but I pray that he doesn’t carry that out.  I can’t say I know how he feels because I’ve never lost a number of people like that by these means, but I know he will get through these times somehow.  My prays are for the Petit family.
I think giving Hayes the death penalty was too easy of a punishment for him.  He should’ve sat and rotted in jail and thought about over and over what he did.  They need to bring back the electric chair and not this simple lethal injection.  Thats my two cents.

posted by: Eli antonnio on December 2, 2010  3:13pm

Mr. Ullman, it is a barbaric sentence.  But it is a just sentence for what he and his cohort did.  Hayes is not the victim in this circumstance, his depression and desire to die do not matter to me.  What matters to me is that these two subhumans will never be put to death by the state, and in Komisarjevsky’s case, will be able to continue to have his taunting writings published for decades to come, thus continuing to torture the pettit family. 
This story should be put to rest a.s.a.p. with their quick and humble deaths.  But their barbaric acts will not be met with the barbaric punishment due them.

posted by: JAK on December 2, 2010  4:54pm

Why do people like Ullman use their formidable talents to “save” people like Hayes rather than dedicate their lives to help victims like Petit deal with the loss that they have suffered?

What kind of philosophy-religious-world view compels him to defend the indefensible?  Certainly he and others must realize that by protesting the death penalty in the manner in which they do, that they are themselves directly responsible for extending and expanding the mental and emotional anguish of the victims.

Does anyone think that forcing two separate trials each with endless years of appeals and periodic bombastic motions for acquittal does not constitute a continuous emotional and mental assault on the victims?  If this is not torture, I don’t know what is.

I am sure that Dr. Petit respects the rights and feelings of people who believe that killing is morally wrong under any circumstances. But professionals like Ullman are not the same as silent candle vigil protestors.  No, Ullman is a different breed.  He is an activist because he actively assaults and further drains what is left out of the life of the victims. 

What tragic irony there is in righteously preaching about “barbarity” while dedicating one’s professional life towards keeping decent people from a deserved measure of emotional closure.

Perhaps there is a psychologist out there who can explain this behavior and obsession.

posted by: JB on December 2, 2010  8:19pm

I can understand standing on principal and being opposed to the death penalty in a vocal manner, even in this case (although I personally feel very differently).  However, I’m mystified that Mr. Ullman would think that anyone in the audience would care that his client is depressed or a “shell of a human being.”  That’s just plain insulting and even worse, it sounds like Mr. Ullman now sympathizes with Hayes.

posted by: robn on December 2, 2010  10:39pm

Murdering to prove that murdering is wrong?

Capital punishment supporters should be sentenced to aiming a gun at the convict’s head, pulling the trigger, and then living for the rest of their lives with the immediacy of their action instead of their remote and vicarious sense of armchair justice.

posted by: JAK on December 3, 2010  10:10am

robn,  Call it what you will.  State murder aka capital punishment wasn’t established to show that murdering is wrong.  We already know that from the ten commandment.  It’s to carry out justice.

posted by: Gary Doyens on December 3, 2010  11:26am

The death penalty should be used rarely. It should be carefully applied and in cases where the depravity is unquestionable and especially hienous, cruel and so far beyond acceptable societal standards, that there is no rational reason for keeping this person alive. It’s about justice and punishment for those actions the convicted chose to inflict on innocent people by their own free will.

Do not make the mistake of thinking that those of us who believe what I write, would not be willing to carry out such a sentence. The part of my comment edited above by the NHI, offered to carry out the sentence myself and I would sleep like a baby when done.

And for the record, death row inmates are not shot or even hanged. They lay on a nice clean gurney, they’re strapped down and injected. They gently fall asleep and their heart stops. That’s a stark contrast to the deaths of the Petit family. Also by contrast, if Hayes had been given life in prison, he would be enjoying conversations with fellow inmates, going to the commissary, free time and group television. On death row, he’s locked down and isolated. So, even if it takes 20 years of appeals, it is comforting to know he will be isolation with little else to do but talk to himself and think of the personal actions he took that landed him there, something he wouldn’t be doing otherwise.

posted by: Response to JAK on December 3, 2010  11:29am


The right to a lawyer is fundamental to the system of justice. As far back as 1932, the Supreme Court stated that “attorneys are officers of the court, and are bound to render service when required by such an appointment” (Powell v. Alabama, establishing a right to counsel in death penalty cases). Mr. Ullman was fulfilling his obligation as an officer of the court, and it was his duty to vigorously defend Mr. Hayes.

Organizations like Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation have taken a position against the death penalty because their members have come to the realization that the death penalty does not help the healing process and is not the way to pursue justice for victims.

Just last week, retired Supreme Court Justice Stevens wrote an article about the death penalty. He was one of the justices who three decades ago voted to reinstate the death penalty, believing that the new procedural safeguards that had been put in place would result in a fairer system of justice. Yet, after serving on the court for 30 years, and having presided over 1,100 executions,he now concludes that “the death penalty is shot with racism, skewed towards conviction, infected with politics and tinged with hysteria.” (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/28/us/28memo.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=stevens settles legal mystery&st=cse)

Finally, I share the perspective of Lewis Lawes, former warden of Sing Sing prison in New York, who questioned the utility of the death penalty by stating that “As if one crime, of such nature, done by a single man, acting individually can be expiated by a similar crime done by all men, acting collectively.” Or, stated more succinctly by Bishop Desmond Tutu, “To take a life when a life has been lost is revenge, not justice.”

My heart goes out for the Petite family, and no one should ever have to suffer like they have. I don’t know anyone in this state who was not deeply moved by the tragedy of this case. But let us not translate that grief into a rallying cry for a lynch mob or the abandonment of fundamental tenets like due process and the right to counsel.

posted by: JB on December 3, 2010  11:39am

I am against the death penalty generally because I worry that the law is unfairly applied and without adequate representation, as it is in Texas.  However, none of those factors are present in the Hayes case and CT does allow for the death penalty and a proper jury applied the law. The Petit family badly wants this to happen and I respect their desire. 

There are many death penalty opponents who believe that the state taking a life is barbaric.  I suppose it is, as are many aspects of our modern society (some would argue legal abortion, industrial farming and slaughter, the flagrant pollution of the planet, and western countries allowing mass slaughter, starvation and misery to happen in other regions).  This is one uncivilized act I can tolerate!

Why Mr. Ullman is so distraught about Hayes’ mental state and the fact that a jury found his eligible for the death penalty, I just can’t understand.

posted by: Correction on December 3, 2010  12:02pm

Mr. Doyens:

...Execution methods in the US include hanging, the electric chair, the firing squad and the gas chamber.

There have been many cases of botched lethal injections, including this description,“May 24, 1989. Texas. Stephen McCoy. Lethal Injection. He had such a violent physical reaction to the drugs (heaving chest, gasping, choking, back arching off the gurney, etc.) that one of the witnesses (male) fainted, crashing into and knocking over another witness. Houston attorney Karen Zellars, who represented McCoy and witnessed the execution, thought the fainting would catalyze a chain reaction. The Texas Attorney General admitted the inmate “seemed to have a somewhat stronger reaction,” adding “The drugs might have been administered in a heavier dose or more rapidly.” I doubt that you will be moved by this, but I just wanted to set the record straight.

Finally, since you seem so willing to take part in an execution, you should know that there are states that solicit executioners. Fortunately, Connecticut is not one of them.  ...

posted by: JB on December 3, 2010  12:17pm

As an aside, I think this case is a bad one for death penalty opponents to push if you want to win hearts and minds (and votes).  I think it’s very possible that the d.p. will be abolished in CT, just don’t go touting this case as example of anything.  There are too many people who would normally lean that way, but who are deeply sympathetic to Petit family and the horrors committed by Hayes and partner.  I know this case has created doubt in my mind.

posted by: Gary Doyens on December 3, 2010  12:33pm


I was writing only about executions in CT. You use Texas as do many death penalty opponents. Texas is a special case unto itself and it may well be in the public interest to abolish it there. It has a long history of applying it unfairly by elected prosecutors who have a vested interest in looking tough on crime. They also have an incredibly poor record of forensic science used in death penalty cases.

CT is not Texas either in our methods of execution, application of the penalty, or rush to carry it out. There is a big difference.

posted by: robn on December 3, 2010  6:37pm


Justice is fairness, equivalency and reason. In this case, justice can never really be had. What we’re left with is vengeance and although the emotions are understandable, they’re not necessarily right.

When our society decides that killing killers is OK, the responsibility falls upon everyone, not just just the executioner, or just the court, or just execution advocates. Please don’t mistake my argument as if its some sort of mercy for Mr Hayes (who I despise). It is our souls with which I’m concerned, not his.