The courtroom experience of Emily Gangi of Branford illustrates the stressful circumstances she and others have experienced after being called as potential jurors in the triple-murder trial of Joshua Komisarjevsky of Cheshire.
Gangi reported for jury duty on April 4 and said the group wondered whether they would be considered for the Komisarjevsky trial. She said none of them knew for sure until they filed as a group into the 6th floor courtroom in the New Haven Superior Court building.
That's when the jury panel saw the accused murderer sitting at the defense table. "The only thing that was scary was that Komisarjevsky was in the room," she said. "I wasn’t expecting that." Gangi said the defendant appeared "disconnected" from the proceedings. She said she noticed that another female juror was trembling at the sight of Komisarjevsky.
Judge Jon C. Blue introduced himself, Gangi said, and asked the jurors to look over the witness lists to see if they knew anyone connected to the trial. One juror said she had known Jennifer Hawke-Petit, so she was dismissed.
Gangi was one of the jurors who raised their hands when Blue asked who would find it a financial hardship to sit on the jury for the trial, which could last three months.
She later took the witness stand and explained that her husband is unemployed. Blue then dismissed her.
If Gangi wasn’t excused from jury service because of a financial hardship, she said she doubts she would have been accepted for the panel. Even though she hasn’t followed the case closely, Gangi said doesn’t believe she could be impartial. "I know I’d already formed opinions," she said. "I don’t think I would have been chosen."
Last year, during the trial of Komisarjevsky’s co-defendant, Steven Hayes, a television crew interviewed an employee at Harbor Health Services in Branford where Gangi works. The employee was asked whether jurors might experience post-traumatic stress disorder after seeing photographs of the triple homicide victims’ bodies presented as evidence.
Some jurors in the Hayes trial have since reported that PTSD is indeed a problem for them. Those jurors have said they have nightmares and lingering fears from the exposure to the violent nature of the evidence.
Jury selection, which began on March 16, will continue this week. So far, attorneys have picked two men and three women for the panel. Those chosen must not only determine if Komisarjevsky is guilty, and, if so, whether he should be given the death penalty.
Komisarjevsky is charged with capital felony murder and other charges in connection with the 2007 triple homicide of Hawke-Petit and her two daughters at their Cheshire home.