Jurors who sentenced Steven Hayes to death viewed graphic and disturbing photos from the Petit family's night of horrors in their Cheshire home. Now, the state judicial system is taking the unusual step of offering the jury post-traumatic stress help to deal with what they saw and heard.
The 12 jurors and the alternates are being offered help Wednesday at the Superior Court, the New Haven Register reports.
The evidence jury members viewed included photos of the charred remains of the mother and two daughers, who were left to die in a burning home. Photos released to the public showed charred beds and ligatures that bound Hayley, 17, and Michaela, 11, to those beds, along with burnt clothing.
What the jury saw in addition was far more disturbing. After seeing autopsy photos of Jennifer Hawke-Petit, who was raped and strangled, and her daughters, some jurors broke down in tears.
"To look at those pictures of those young girls being burned alive - how can you justify that?" Delores Carter, a juror, told NBC Connecticut.
The crimes shocked the town of Cheshire, where locking doors of homes was once an anomaly, as well as people across the state.
Melissa Farley, executive director of external affairs for the judicial branch, told the Register that the courts have never before offered this service.
“It’s not therapy,” Farley said. “It’s an opportunity for the jurors to spend time with someone who has expertise dealing with traumatic stress. The jurors will be able to talk about what they’ve been through.”
The session is closed to the public and media, the Register reports. Farley said a staff member will meet with the jurors and there is no expense to the state. Whether future jurors are offered the same service remains to be seen.