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Judge Rules on Witness List Issue in Komisarjevsky Trial

New motion criticizes judge for favoring news media's rights over defendant's rights

A New Haven Superior Court judge this morning denied a defense motion for reconsideration of his order last Friday to release witness lists for the Joshua Komisarjevsky trial, according to theHartford Courant.

But Judge Jon C. Blue extended the stay of his order an extra week, the Courant reported, until April 14, to give defense lawyers more time to seek a review, and a longer stay, from another court.

Defense attorneys for Komisarjevsky, the second Cheshire home invasion defendant, filed the reconsideration motion Wednesday.

The motion says the judge’s decisions pertaining to which documents should be released to the news media gives greater weight to the interests of the family of the victims in the triple homicide and to the interests of the news media than to Komisarjevsky’s right to a fair trial.

Judge Blue’s order responded to a motion by the Courant requesting the release of the witness lists.

The defense opposed the request on the grounds that it would discourage witnesses from testifying for Komisarjevsky during the penalty phase of the death penalty trial, fearing they might be targets of threats and harassment.

"The granting of the Courant’s motion is yet another example of the Court ingratiating itself with the media," the motion said.

It then gave several examples, including Judge Blue’s decision to allow live Twitter feeds from the courtroom during jury selection, the judge handing out homemade cookies to reporters during the trial of Komisarjevsky’s co-defendant, Steven Hayes, last November, and his decision to reserve the two front rows of seats in the courtroom for reporters.

"The Court’s actions and its pattern of rulings on media-related issues expose a bias where accommodation of media requests trumps Mr. Komisarjevsky’s right to a fair trial," the defense motion said.

The motion also said appealing Judge Blue’s decision would be "a hollow and relatively meaningless gesture" because it is unrealistic to expect another court to intervene.

Komisarjevsky faces the death penalty for the triple homicide in Cheshire in 2007, in which Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters were killed.

The crime began as a home invasion robbery. Hawke-Petit’s husband, Dr. William Petit, was severely beaten and tied up, but managed to escape to a neighbor’s house and avoid being killed with the rest of his family.

Hayes was convicted in a separate trial in 2010 and was sentenced to death.

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