Eight jurors have now been chosen for the trial of Joshua Komisarjevsky, the second Cheshire home invasion defendant, at the end of the sixth week of jury selection.
The jury now consists of three men and five women. Twelve regular jurors, six alternates and three backup alternates must be chosen for the trial, which is scheduled to start in September.
Komisarjevsky, 30, faces the death penalty for capital felony murder and other charges for his role in the triple homicide of a Cheshire mother and her two daughters in 2007.
His co-defendant, Steven Hayes, 47, was convicted in a separate trial in 2010 and is on death row appealing his death penalty sentence.
On Thursday, both the defense and the prosecution used peremptory challenges to excuse prospective jurors.
Each side may use up to 40 peremptory challenges to excuse jurors without giving a reason. Usually, they are used when the lawyers feel a juror who is otherwise qualified might not favor their interests in the case. As it now stands, Komisarjevsky’s defense lawyers have used 16 challenges and prosecutors have used 12.
It appeared the court this week might settle the legal battle over the release of the witness lists in the case. Instead, Judge Jon C. Blue extended his previous stay after the defense lawyers, Jeremiah Donovan, Walter C. Bansley III and Todd A. Bussert, informed him they intended to appeal his order to release the documents to the Hartford Courant.
Last month, the newspaper challenged Blue’s decision to seal the lists, which led the judge to order the release of the documents over the objection of the defense.
But the judge stayed his order to give the defense a chance to have it reviewed by another court, and the stay has been extended several times. The stay is now extended to May 4.
The witness lists were prepared so prospective jurors could see if they know anyone personally who might be a participant in the trial, such as a police officer or someone testifying about Komisarjevsky’s upbringing. That would be cause to excuse a juror.
The defense argued that releasing the list might jeopardize Komisarjevsky’s right to a fair trial, because some witnesses might then decline to testify fearing a public backlash.
In the Hayes trial, a witness during the penalty phase received anonymous threats and Internet bloggers attempted to organize a boycott against her restaurant after she testified about the defendant’s demeanor when she employed him as a dishwasher.
Blue, however, ruled that the defense failed to cite any specific threat against a witness for Komisarjevsky.
The judge nevertheless ruled this week that the name of Komisarjevsky’s nine-year-old daughter, who is a potential witness, should be removed from his witness list prior to its release to the Courant. The defense, prosecution and the attorney representing the newspaper agreed to this in a private conference with the judge earlier in the week.
If her name comes up in court or if she is called as a witness, she will be referred to using a pseudonym instead of her actual name.