Lawyers for Joshua Komisarjevsky, the second Cheshire home invasion defendant, have asked the Appellate Court for an emergency temporary stay to block the release of witness lists to the news media.
If the Appellate Court does not issue a stay, the trial judge, Superior Court Judge Jon C. Blue, has ordered the release of the witness lists this Thursday afternoon.
Jury selection for the trial is under way at Superior Court in New Haven, where defense lawyers and state prosecutors picked the 12th member of the jury today, May 10.
According to a source knowledgeable about the jury selection, the 12th juror is the fifth man chosen so far. News reports identified him as a Guilford resident who is an assistant coach for the Yale tennis team. That would mean half of the jurors picked so far have a connection to Yale University.
In their request for an emergency temporary stay, Komisarjevsky’s defense lawyers, special public defenders Jeremiah Donovan, Walter C. Bansley III and Todd A. Bussert, argued that Judge Blue violated the Connecticut Practice Book, which sets down rules for court proceedings.
They said the practice book requires stays to extend at least 10 days, but Judge Blue only extended the stay eight days.
They also filed a motion for the Appellate Court to review Judge Blue’s order granting the Hartford Courant’s request for the release of the witness lists.
The defense contends that release of the lists might expose their witnesses to threats and harassment, and that, they maintain, could endanger Komisarjevsky’s right to a fair trial.
Komisarjevsky faces the death penalty for his part in the 2007 triple homicide of a Dr. William Petit’s wife and two daughters in a home invasion kidnapping and robbery that turned violent. Mr. Petit was badly beaten, but survived.
Komisarjevsky’s co-defendant, Steven Hayes, was convicted in a separate trial last year and is on death row.
Defense lawyers said the release of the witness lists would primarily affect witnesses they might call during the penalty phase of the trial, the second phase during which the jury decides if the defendant should be sentenced to death or life in prison without possibility of release.
Judge Blue sealed the witness lists on the opening day of jury selection, March 16. A week later, The Courant filed a motion for vacating the sealing order. Although the defense objected, Judge Blue ruled in The Courant’s favor on April 1, but immediately granted a stay to allow the defense time to get another court to review the matter.
The prosecution said it had no objection to releasing the witness lists.
Judge Blue has extended his stay several times and ordered the name of Komisarjevsky’s 9-year-old daughter removed from the list for her protection. But last week he said he would not extend the stay again once it runs out at 2 p.m. on May 12.