November 21, 2010

Leyritz guilty of drunk driving; acquitted of manslaughter

Posted: 06:21 AM ET

Ft. Lauderdale, FL - After several hours of deliberations over three days, a jury of five men and one woman found former World Series hero Jim Leyritz guilty of drunk driving, but acquitted him of a more serious charge of DUI manslaughter.

Leyritz, was charged with two counts of vehicular manslaughter while driving under the influence after a car collision in 2007 killed 30-year-old Fredia Veitch. 

Evidence that Veitch was not wearing a seat belt was suppressed by the judge, who in pre-trial litigation found that it was irrelevant in determining whether Leyritz caused the accident by running a red light.

During the trial, the judge tossed out count one: DUI manslaughter based on impairment. He found insufficient evidence for this charge to go to the jury.  However, the judge did decide count two, DUI manslaughter based on Leyritz's blood alcohol content (BAC), would go to the jury.

In Session will speak live with Jim Leyritz on Monday to get his reaction to the verdict.  Stay tuned to In Session, your front row seat to justice!

-Elizabeth Chmurak, In Session Associate Producer

Filed under: Trials • Verdict!

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November 8, 2010

Jurors: Man should die for deadly home invasion

Posted: 12:00 PM ET


– Jurors mainly looked at family members as they came in

– Verdict reached after four days of deliberation

NEW HAVEN, Connecticut (CNN) –  A man convicted of killing three members of a Connecticut family in a brutal 2007 home invasion should die for the crime, jurors decided Monday after more than 16 hours of deliberation.

Steven Hayes, 47, was convicted last month of 16 of the 17 charges against him, including nine counts of murder and capital murder and four counts of kidnapping. Jennifer Hawke-Petit, 48, and her daughters, 17-year-old Hayley Petit and 11-year-old Michaela.

Prosecutors alleged that Hayes and Joshua Komisarjevsky invaded the Petit home in Cheshire, Connecticut, beat Dr. William Petit, raped and strangled his wife, molested one of the daughters and set the house on fire before attempting to flee.

Jurors entering the courtroom Monday were somber and mostly looked at members of the Petit family, not at Hayes.


-Michael Christian, In Session Field Producer

Filed under: Breaking News • Trial Updates • Trials • Verdict!

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October 29, 2010

Jurors will make recommendation for the fate of Leonard Gonzalez Jr.

Posted: 10:06 AM ET

Pensacola, FL – Jurors will now deliberate on whether Leonard Gonzalez Jr. should live or die after an evening verdict of guilty on all counts by the Pensacola jury of 11 women and one man. They will make a recommendation to the judge who will decide his fate.

As everyone waited outside the courtroom for any sign that the jury had reached a verdict, court officials began to motion, assembling us to enter the courtroom a little after 8 p.m. on Thursday.  

The courtroom was silent as jurors filed in. One juror looked at the defendant. The others seemed to look down. All were extremely serious. Jurors appeared tired.

An emotional Ashley Markham, the daughter of the victims, sat with her husband as the verdict was read... guilty of first-degree murder with a weapon of Byrd Billings, guilty of first-degree murder with a weapon of Melanie Billings and guilty of home invasion robbery with a firearm. 

Markham, who has now taken over raising the Billings’ special needs children, began to silently break down on her husband's shoulder. Others in the courtroom began to nod their heads up and down in agreement at hearing the verdict.

Gonzalez Jr. bowed his head at the reading of each verdict. Gone was the confidence we had seen on his face throughout the trial. He had no family members present.

Once again, as Gonzalez Jr. was led out of the courtroom, he gave a big nod to the Billings family as he passed directly in front of them.

The penalty phase begins Friday morning and In Session will bring it to you LIVE!

 -Jean Casarez, In Session Correspondent

Filed under: Sentencing • Trials • Verdict!

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October 28, 2010

Gonzalez found guilty in Billings murder case

Posted: 10:12 PM ET
Pensacola, Florida (CNN) - The penalty phase begins Friday for a man convicted of leading a team of masked men dressed as ninjas to ambush a family in a Florida home.

Leonard Gonzalez Jr. was convicted Thursday for the murder plot. The penalty phase starting at 10 a.m. ET will determine whether he will get the death penalty.

An Escambia County, Florida, jury determined that Gonzalez fatally shot Byrd and Melanie Billings in the couple's master bedroom as one of their nine special-needs children looked on. 

He was also found guilty of armed home-invasion robbery. Full Story


Filed under: Breaking News • Trials • Verdict!

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October 18, 2010

John Hawthorne guilty of murdering camper

Posted: 02:13 PM ET

Orlando, FL The six Orange County residents who sat on John Hawthorne’s jury took only around two hours to reach a verdict. The news came just as Chief Judge Belvin Perry wrapped up a hearing in the Casey Anthony case, shifting the focus in the large Roger A. Barker Ceremonial Courtroom back to the fate of 20-year-old Hawthorne. His parents, older siblings, grandparents and others sat scattered in the seats behind the defendant as the jury filed in. The family members of victim Joel Boner sat in the balcony of the room, as they had throughout the trial. Boner’s aunt, uncle, sister and brother-in-law were present in Orlando during the proceedings to represent the clan, while the victim’s parents stayed in Oklahoma to run their chicken farm and care for the six children who remain at home.

Barely filling his dark suit, Hawthorne stood as he listened to the decision: Guilty of second-degree murder – an offense which in Florida requires “a depraved mind” and disregard for human life, but not premeditation. Prosecutors had alleged Hawthorne targeted the sleeping Boner at his campsite in the early morning hours of July 22, 2009, with a vicious attack that left the man begging for help and bleeding to death from his injuries. Hawthorne’s defense attorney told jurors his client acted in self-defense, and that the fatal wound was an accident.

Hawthorne, who had been free on $25,000 bond and confined to his parents’ home for all but one hour per day, was fingerprinted and handcuffed as his family looked on. For the first time during the trial, his face betrayed emotion, and he appeared to be fighting to maintain his composure. His mother wiped tears, and was joined by several others in shouting “We love you, John,” as Hawthorne disappeared through a courtroom side door.

Hawthorne’s sentence, to be set by Judge Perry, could range from 20.5 years behind bars to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Watch the judge deliver his decision on In Session’s continued coverage of Florida v. John Hawthorne.

-Lena Jakobsson, In Session Field Producer

Filed under: Verdict!

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October 6, 2010

Inside the courtroom for the Steven Hayes verdict

Posted: 10:34 AM ET

New Haven, CT – After 4 hours and 15 minutes, a New Haven jury in the triple murder trial of Steven Hayes – accused of being half of a duo of home invaders who carried out one of the most horrendous crimes in Connecticut history – convicted the defendant on 16 of the 17 counts with which he was charged.  In all, Hayes was convicted of multiple counts of murder and kidnapping, as well as charges of sexual assault, assault, and burglary.  Among the charges of which Hayes was convicted were six capital felony counts. Because of those six convictions, the trial will now move into a penalty phase, scheduled to begin on Monday, October 18.

As the seven women and five men on the jury entered the courtroom, they all looked serious, but not overly somber.  As a court clerk called out each juror’s name, that person stood and remained standing.  Then, the clerk read the full list of 17 counts the defendant was facing, with the foreman announcing “guilty” to each one, save for the sixteenth:  a charge of arson of which the defendant was acquitted.

The 47-year-old defendant appeared to show little emotion as he heard the jury’s verdict, bowing his head slightly as it was being announced.  Even when Hayes learned that he had been found not guilty of the arson count, I saw no change in his demeanor.  Later, after the jurors had been released, the defendant was handcuffed prior to being led from the courtroom – the first time we’ve seen that during this trial.

The members of the Petit and Hawke families appeared to be relatively subdued as the verdict was announced, a moment that had to have been incredibly stressful; although I heard a few sniffles, I didn’t personally see any tears.  Hanna Chapman, the sister of Dr. William Petit, appeared to be having the hardest time during the verdict; at one point, a man in the row behind her reached over and put his hand around her shoulder.  I didn’t see any specific reaction on the part of Dr. Petit himself; although I noticed at one point that he had used a tissue or handkerchief to dab the base of his nose, it was impossible to tell if he had actually been wiping away a tear.  Later, after the jurors had been excused from the courtroom and the trial had been recessed, family members hugged each other, obviously pleased with the outcome.

After leaving the courthouse, in a brief press conference, Dr. Petit expressed his relief with the verdict, although he noted that it in no way compensated for the loss of his family.  He said that although he would prefer not to report to court every day, he feels that he needs to do so for his late wife, Jennifer Hawke-Petit, and his daughters, Hayley and Michaela, and that under similar circumstances any good person would likely do the same.

-Michael Christian, In Session Field Producer

Filed under: Trials • Verdict!

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October 5, 2010

"My family is still gone" Dr. William Petit reacts after guilty verdict

Posted: 05:02 PM ET

New Haven, CT – Moments after learning the guilty verdict for Steven Hayes, the man convicted of killing his wife Jennifer Hawke-Petit and two daughters, Hayley and Michaela, Dr. William Petit expressed his feelings to reporters outside of the New Haven Superior Courthouse.

"There is some relief but my family is still gone, it doesn't bring them back,  it doesn't bring back the home that we had," said Dr. William Petit. "Certainly a guilty verdict is a much better sense of relief than a verdict of non guilty."

Petit says he found the strength to come to the courthouse everyday because he felt he owed it to his family to seek justice.

"If your family was destroyed by evil I think that you would all do the same thing and be there for your family... it's the one thing you can do," said Dr. Petit.

Moving forward, Dr. Petit says what matters most to him is keeping the memories of his family alive and trying to do good things through the Petit Family Foundation.

"The last couple of weeks I have been telling myself that good will overcome evil and we'll keep trying to do good things," said Dr. Petit. 

Steven Hayes was convicted of capital murder, kidnapping, sexual assault and burglary for the killings of Jennifer Hawke-Petit, Hayley Petit and Michaela Petit in 2007. Hawke-Petit was strangled, while her daughters; 17-year-old Hayley and 11-year-old Michaela died of smoke inhalation when their captors set their home on fire. Dr. William Petit was tied up and beaten but managed to escape alive.

The penalty phase for Steven Hayes is scheduled for October 18, 2010. 

Stay with In Session for all the latest updates.

-Elizabeth Chmurak, In Session Associate Producer

Filed under: Trials • Verdict!

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Verdict: Steven Hayes found guilty of capital murder

Posted: 01:30 PM ET

New Haven, CT – After 4 hours and 15 minutes of deliberations, the jurors in the Connecticut v. Steven Hayes trial came back with a guilty verdict for 16 of the 17 counts against him. Hayes has been convicted of capital murder, kidnapping, burglary and sexual assault. Jurors found him not guilty of the arson charge.  

Here is a breakdown of the counts:

1  Murder - intentional killing of Jennifer Hawke-Petit  – GUILTY

2  Murder - intentional killing of Hayley Petit – GUILTY

3  Murder - intentional killing of Michaela Petit – GUILTY

4  Capital murder - intent to cause the deaths of two or more persons in the course of a single transaction (all three victims) – GUILTY

5  Capital murder - intent to cause the death of Michaela Petit, a person under the age of sixteen – GUILTY  

6  Kidnapping, 1st degree abduction of William Petit in the course of a larceny in the first degree – GUILTY 

7  Kidnapping, 1st degree abduction of Jennifer Hawke-Petit in the course of a larceny, 1st degree – GUILTY

8  Kidnapping, 1st degree abduction of Hayley Petit in the course of a larceny, 1st degree – GUILTY

9  Kidnapping, 1st degree abduction of Michaela Petit in the course of a larceny, 1st degree – GUILTY

10  Capital Murder - intent to cause the death of Jennifer Hawke-Petit in the course of a kidnapping – GUILTY

11   Capital Murder - intent to cause the death of Hayley Petit in the course of a kidnapping – GUILTY

12   Capital Murder - intent to cause the death of Michaela Petit in the course of a kidnapping – GUILTY

13   Sexual Assault, 1st degree – compelled Jennifer Hawke-Petit to have sexual intercourse – GUILTY

14   Capital Murder - intent to cause the death of Jennifer Hawke-Petit in the course of a sexual assault, 1st degree – GUILTY

15   Burglary, 3rd degree - entered a building with the intent to commit larceny - GUILTY

16   Arson, 1st degree - burned an occupied building – NOT GUILTY

17  Assault, 2nd degree - injured Dr. William Petit – GUILTY

Steven Hayes was charged with capital murder, kidnapping, sexual assault, burglary and arson for the killings of Jennifer Hawke-Petit, Hayley Petit and Michaela Petit in 2007. Hawke-Petit was strangled, while her daughters; 17-year-old Hayley and 11-year-old Michaela died of smoke inhalation when their captors set their home on fire.

The penalty phase for Steven Hayes is scheduled for October 18, 2010. Stay with In Session for continuous coverage and updates!

- In Session's Elizabeth Chmurak and Michael Christian contributed to this report

Filed under: Breaking News • Verdict!

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September 24, 2010

Verdict: Michael Riley is found guilty of first degree murder

Posted: 12:55 PM ET

Brockton, MA – After eight hours of deliberations over two days, the jury of five men and seven women found defendant Michael Riley guilty of the crime of murder in the first degree.  The jurors also determined that the killing of Rebecca Riley was committed with extreme atrocity or cruelty.

Riley showed very little reaction as he learned of the jury’s decision.  In contrast, at least one of the female jurors was openly crying as the panel entered the jury box to deliver its verdict.

Although the small courtroom gallery was fairly crowded during the reading of the verdict, virtually none of those present were supporters of the defendant’s.  Riley’s mother, sister, and mother-in-law – all of whom had attended the trial at least once – were not present for the reading of the verdict.

It’s interesting to contrast Michael Riley’s conviction with the verdict rendered during the trial of co-defendant Carolyn Riley, his wife.  After deliberating for 19 hours over three days, Mrs. Riley’s jury came to the conclusion that she was guilty of second-degree – rather than first-degree – murder.

-Michael Christian, In Session Field Producer

Filed under: Trials • Verdict!

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August 27, 2010

Felon guilty of beating, robbing NFL Star

Posted: 11:31 AM ET


 Las Vegas, NV - After hearing from 23 witnesses over eight days, jurors took just over four and a half hours to make a decision in Nevada v. Deshawn Thomas. Towards the end of their deliberations, they asked for an additional definition of “substantial bodily harm.” They were told to rely on the instructions already provided to them. The jury was made up of six men and six women. There were no African-Americans on the panel. Jurors in Clark County are allowed to ask questions of the witnesses, in this case, via notes to the judge after each witness’ testimony.

Deshawn Thomas was found guilty on the following counts:

• Conspiracy to commit kidnapping
• Lesser included of first-degree kidnapping
• Lesser included of battery
• Battery with intent to commit a crime
• Robbery
• Conspiracy to commit robbery

Javon Walker and his friends left town after their testimony and did not attend the verdict. The defendant, Deshawn Thomas, was surrounded by a number of extra Marshalls’ Deputies, and showed no visible reaction to the verdict. Other than a handful of reporters and curious attorneys, the gallery was empty.

–Lena Jakobsson, In Session Field Producer

Filed under: Trials • Verdict Watch • Verdict!

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 This is your online home for In Session on truTV’s up-to-the minute, comprehensive coverage of legal issues, trials and news from America’s courtrooms.  Our anchors, analysts and producers are teaming up here to give you updates on the stories that matter to you.

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