Should convicted murderer Steven Hayes get the death penalty?

WARNING: This story has graphic descriptions of evil and despicable acts.

Story from the Hartford Courant.

Excerpt:

A Superior Court jury today sentenced Steven Hayes to death for the murders of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters, Hayley and Michaela, during a seven-hour home invasion, robbery and arson at their Cheshire home in July 2007.

Outside the courthouse after the verdicts, Hawke-Petit’s father, the Rev. Richard Hawke, said “There are some people who do not deserve to live in God’s world.”

Asked what he had in his heart, Dr. William Petit Jr. struggled with his answer. “….Probably many of you have kids,” he said, pausing to choke back tears. “Michaela was an 11-year-old little girl…tortured and killed in her own bedroom, surrounded by her stuffed animals….”

Petit then talked about his daughter Hayley’s bright future and her strength and the children that his wife, Jennifer, helped.

“So, I was really thinking of the tremendous loss” during the verdict, Petit said, adding that he was pleased with it, but “mostly I was sad for the loss we have all suffered.”

Asked if he thought there’d be closure now, Petit said, “There’s never closure. There’s a hole…. with jagged edges…that may smooth out with time, but the hole in your heart and the hole in your soul” remains.

“This isn’t about revenge,” Petit said. “Vengeance belongs to the Lord. This is about justice.”

[…]The jury sentenced Hayes to death on six counts: killing Hawke-Petit and Michaela and Hayley in the course of a single action; killing a child under the age of 16; killing Hawke-Petit in the course of a kidnapping; killing Hayley in the course of a kidnapping; killing Michaela in the course of a kidnapping; and killing Hawke-Petit in the course of a sexual assault.

[…]Hayes, 47, of Winsted, was convicted Oct. 5 of breaking into the Petit home, beating Petit, tying up and torturing the family as Hayes and another man ransacked the home for cash and valuables and tortured the family for seven hours. Testimony during Hayes’ trial showed that at one point in the break-in, Hayes forced Hawke-Petit to go to the bank to withdraw money. During that time, according to testimony, Komisarjevsky sexually assaulted Michaela Petit, 11.

When Hawke-Petit and Hayes returned from the bank, Hayes raped and strangled Hawke-Petit. The house was doused with gasoline and set on fire as the intruders fled, testimony showed. Hayley, 17, and Michaela died of smoke inhalation.

[…]Prosecutors used the words of Hayes’ younger brother Matthew to counter testimony that home-invasion crime was an aberration in Hayes otherwise troubled but basically nonviolent life.

Matthew Hayes portrayed his brother as a conniving, sadistic, violent thief who saw Matthew take countless beatings from his brutal father for Steven Hayes’ misdeeds. At one point, Steven Hayes held a gun to Matthew’s head, according to the statement, which was given to state police after the home invasion.

Examples of Hayes’ sadistic behavior toward his brother included hooking Matthew to the garage door by his belt and raising the door up and down, and holding Matthew’s hand to a red-hot burner. Matthew said his brother’s life of crime was not a result of bad parenting or poor childhood. He said Hayes never learned to take responsibility for his actions.

“Steven is what Steven is because he’s a coward,” Matthew Hayes wrote.

I know that some people are very pro-life and yet don’t support the death penalty, and then there are leftists who favor killing innocent babies, while letting guilty murderers live. I am just curious about whether any of my readers is willing to come out and explain why Hayes should not get the death penalty. I think he should.

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32 thoughts on “Should convicted murderer Steven Hayes get the death penalty?”

  1. I do support the death penalty. I do believe in evil. To show undeserved mercy to evil is to perpetrate further injustice upon their victims. However, with that said, there are “legitimate” jail house conversions. I would want to give a person as much time as possible to be saved. I do realize there are some who will never be saved (just look at Timothy McVeigh), but how can we know who is capable of redemption. However, once a criminal has “exhausted” the “system” and the death sentence must be delivered, I don’t object.

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  2. First off, I agree with the death penalty because God ordained it and called for it in Genesis 9. He was saying that since this man took and destroyed someone who bore the image of God, then that person should have their lives taken as well.

    As for waiting for them to be conversion, I disagree with that premise because this salvation is based upon a person’s time to reflect and think about their sin. If they are of God’s elect, then they will be converted as quickly as they need to be. If they are not God’s elect, letting them sponge the air of His creation any longer is a waste of time. Punishment should be done quickly and satisfactorily by the state. Their eternal future is not the state’s concern, although we would pray that it would come about.

    This is why I am pro death penalty and anti abortion. It is centered on the fact that we are made in God’s image. The one who destroys another person, deserves death. The unborn in the womb, no matter how old, deserve life because at the moment of conception, they are image bearers and worthy of life.
    Blessings

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    1. Again, I have no moral or Biblical objections to the death penalty, and I may be getting off topic, but I am struggling to understand your words, “If they are of God’s elect, then they will be converted as quickly as they need to be. If they are not God’s elect, letting them sponge the air of His creation any longer is a waste of time.” As I read it this seems to say, God has a plan so we need not worry about anything-no action or consideration on our part required. An easy “opt out” for us. Or, taking this line of thought and expanding it Paul said human government has divine authority, so I need not oppose what I see as bad policy of my government? These leaders are God’s elect. Or, God has permitted legalized abortion and knew the child would be aborted soon after conception, so I need not take any action in changing the law or counseling the women to give the child life. After all, either you are God’s elect or not. Again, forgive me if I am taking your words out of context but I just don’t understand your argument.

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      1. Hi Tina,
        No, I’m not removing human responsibility from the equation. I’m saying there is no need to let them linger on for years and years. If they are of God’s elect, and we are responsible in trying to reach them with the gospel, they will come to faith as God’s Spirit moves in them. The shorter time span will neither help nor hinder that process since God is sovereign over both. God will reach all of those who belong to Him. Not one single man, woman or child who are His elect will be missed. If they are of His elect, they will be saved, converted, etc. Remember the one that was converted while undergoing the death penalty next to Christ. He trust in Him at that moment and was saved. God will reach all that He has ordained to reach.

        Our job is to be responsible believers and take the gospel to as many as will hear it.
        Does that help you understand what I was saying?

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        1. Timothy is coming from a Calvinist perspective here. My own view is that I am not sure that we should keep convicted criminals alive at taxpayer expense and all the while denying justice to the families of the victim. Why should we reward the guilty with time to reconsider when it costs 50K a year to maintain a prisoner, while denying justice to the victims of his/her crimes? Not to mention the deterrent effect that the death penalty creates which saves the lives of other potential victims of crime. Why should we sacrifice the prosperity and safety of innocent people to help one guilty person?

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          1. Yes, it was forordained before the foundations of the world that I would be a Calvinist, the rest of you chose your own positions. :)

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        2. That helps…kind of…I’m just having trouble wrapping my mind around the whole “elected” idea. I guess I am showing my ignorance here (of Calvinism???). My understanding is we have free will to choose Christ or not. While God knows my future, my choices and actions, the idea He “elected” me seems to take me off the hook for my choices and actions-good or bad. But that is a tangent for another day. I agree crime deserves punishment regardless of forgiveness. Actions have consequences and as I said earlier, to show undeserved mercy to evil is to perpetrate further injustice upon their victims. Thanks for not being ugly with me in my quest for understanding.

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  3. Capital punishment, rather than an act of vengeance or, as some would put it, “state sanctioned murder”, is really an expression of the extent to which the state values life. The murderer doesn’t value life as evidenced by his taking it. To allow him to then live out his life naturally is to show disrespect and dishonor for the life he took. The crimes carry the punishment before the crime is committed, so it is an affront to the spirit of justice to not lay down the sentence that the law provides (allowing for extreme circumstances where a righteous judge or jury finds a lesser penalty to be more appropriate).

    This case is a sterling example of a creature who has no concern for the lives of others and has proven that fact in no uncertain terms. To end their lives is absolutely appropriate and the proper move for a civilized and life-affirming people.

    This is not to be confused with the concept of forgiveness. To forgive for a crime committed against me or my family does not affect the carrying out of a capital sentence.

    As to the convicted having time to find God, I do not favor allowing the process to slow for this purpose. Justice is supposed to be quick. But whether or not the convicted has the time, or more to the point, had enough time and did indeed repent and convert, that too, should not affect the carrying out of the sentence.

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    1. Marshall, I am glad that you raised the point about how you can forgive someone, but that they still need to either be punished or do something to make up for what they’ve done. Saying “I’m sorry” really doesn’t repair any of the damage that’s been caused. And there is something to be said for the deterrent effect of executing the worst criminals – studies show that every criminal who is executed deters other heinous criminals from committing similar crimes. (See the related links)

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    2. I agree with Marshall. My only issue with the death penalty is that there are rare cases in which an innocent person is falsely found guilty – and then the sentence is irreversible.

      In such a straightforward case as this, the death penalty is appropriate. The punishment fits the crime.

      The sentence is carried out as an act of justice, not of revenge. It therefore does not impact negatively on forgiveness.

      As for more time being required to find God, I am in agreement with Timothy’s view that God cannot be thwarted in his purpose to save any who are to be saved. Moreover, there’s nothing like an impending execution to make a person consider their eternal destiny. It is often the illusion of death being far off that makes many put off the things of God.

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  4. Does the person who kills Steven Hayes deserve the death penalty? If so, what about the person who kills the person who killed Stephen Hayes? And so on, and so forth… ?

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    1. Yes, Steven Hayes deserves it. No, the person that executes him does not because we’re not moral cretins.

      Next question…

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    2. Hi Mknz.

      Steven Hayes committed murder of an innocent person. The person who kills Steven Hayes is carrying out justice. These are dramatically different acts. One act is fuelled by hatred, the other by justice. One person who dies is innocent of a crime and the other person is guilty of a serious crime. The two are simply not comparable.

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    3. Also, one is being carried out by the state, which is given this responsibility by God, in is used to keep society civil. Otherwise, we fall into barbarianism.

      The executioner is not guilty of any sin, either against God or man. He is merely an instrument of justice.

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      1. I actually know a woman who thinks that an American soldier who kills a terrorist on the battlefield is as guilty as the terrorist, even though the terrorist targets innocent people and the American soldier targets the murdering terrorist. (This person hates strong men and does not think that men should ever make moral judgments, or defend good people from evil). I have had long debates with this person. She also did not think that war was justified to stop the advance of Nazism or communism. Arguing with someone who insists on moral equivalence of guilty and innocent, and who cannot understand simple relations like “more probable/less probable” and “more frequent/less frequent” and “innocent/guilty”, is very frustrating.

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  5. As someone who is strongly pro-life, I think that the death penalty is appropriate in certain cases, especially in cases like this one.

    God sanctions the death penalty in scripture, and it has also been shown to be an effective deterrent to future criminal acts.

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    1. But please, never let the deterrent argument be the reason for the death penalty. The death penalty is not used as a deterrent, even though it is, but because the person needs to be punished for their crime against both another person and the state.

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      1. I think though that a legitimate function of government is to protect the public and to restrain evil. The deterent effect is a legitimate function of government in my view. It’s OK if we disagree.

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        1. No, you are right. One of the purposes of the law is for restraint. Thanks for the reminder.

          I think I’m over reacting to that being the only reason that is put forth for the use of the death penalty and the law. Not that I have EVER over reacted before. :)

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          1. As humans, we cannot obtain justice (assuming such a thing could even adequately be defined.) It is not a question of abdicating our responsibility—it is recognizing our limitations. I, for one, am not satisfied with innocents “less likely” to be executed.

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  6. I do not think Steven Hayes should get the death penalty. [figured you wanted someone to step forward.] I am opposed to the death penalty on pragmatic grounds, rather than principle.

    Our justice system is made up of people. Humans– flawed creatures. I am intimately familiar with the machinations and numerous external pressures placed on the US Criminal system; mistakes have been made (both intentional and unintentional). And innocent people have been sent to prison (and executed).

    Because of those errors and continued possibility of error, I consider the death penalty too final a solution for what could potentially end an innocent life.

    Understand cases are presented on a continuum: some have very little evidence; others a great deal. In some the facts are not particularly dramatic; others (such as this one) are heart-wrenching. I find it impossible to find a place on that continuum where one can say, “Here there is enough proof” or “Here the crime is despicable enough” to justify the death penalty.

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    1. We cannot abdicate our responsibility to enact justice simply because we are flawed human beings. We must do the best we can, which includes having the best people possible in all levels of law enforcement. Plus, if we each do our part as citizens, reporting crimes we witness, complying with calls for jury duty (*gack*), etc., innocents are less likely to be put to death. Advances in investigative techniques, such as DNA evidence, increases the likelihood of arresting the right person.

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  7. Yes, I think he should get the death penalty.

    But some of the wording in some of the comments is bothering me a bit.

    The phase, “God sanctions the death penalty in His word” kind of misses the point for me.

    The first murderer, Cain, did not receive the death penalty. God laid out a judgement against him but it did not include death.

    However, evil men seeing the mercy of God, rather than learning in fear, it enboldens them.

    Lemech (sp) later in Genesis bragged to his two wives about the two murders he committed.

    So when Moses came along and Israel needed a law, it included the death penalty.

    Why?

    Because evil men don’t get mercy. And evil men need a reason not to commit murder. And they need a much bigger reason than just because “It’s wrong.”
    And the reason has to be huge, not a slap on the wrists. It has to cost them dearly. And their life is the most precious thing they have.

    So while I understand that the death penalty is included in the law of Moses and feel that is should be included in our laws, especially for the most evil men like Steven Hayes…
    Calling it God sanctioned sounds like it’s God’s best.
    When in reality, it seems to me, that Moses gave the death penalty for the same reason he gave people the right to divorce.
    Because of the hardness of mens’ hearts.

    I know, I know. It’s not really that big of a deal.
    But still I cannot ignore the mercy God gave to the first murderer, nor the arrogance of the second murderer mentioned in the Bible when he saw the mercy of God on the first.

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    1. Cain didn’t get the death penalty because God had yet to sanction the death penalty. He did not give it until after the flood, when He wiped out all of mankind for their wickedness, with the exception of 8.

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    2. Mara,
      This is a good point and one that a Christian really should think through. If you think about it, the Apostle Paul was a murderer who didn’t get the death penalty either.

      Lest we think the death penalty is an arbitrary thing, I believe that if God chooses to intervene to mercifully spare the life of a murderer then he is entitled to do that. God knows there has likely been many men who deserved the death penalty in our contemporary times that God freely spared for his own reasons.

      I’m in favor of the death penalty because of Genesis 9:5-6 and Romans 13:3-4. Rule of thumb: God gets to freely choose to extend mercy, not society. Society should apply the death penalty as a God-given means to punish evil.

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  8. Hi Everyone,
    I don’t expect many to agree with me on my points of Calvinism. So no need to apologize. If you are interested, spend more time at my blog or email me and I will be glad to discuss it with you.

    But as my conscious dictates, I cannot write or state my case from any other position than that of a Calvinist, which I am convinced by Scripture is the best summary and truth of Scripture. Feel free to point this out when necessary and thanks for understanding my position.

    And let me be clear, just because I am an Calvinist and you are not doesn’t mean that I think you are not saved. Faith in Christ alone, by grace alone, for God’s glory alone is what it takes to be saved, not our understanding of theology.

    Also, please don’t confuse me with a hyper-Calvinist. I believe in evangelism, foreign missions, preaching the gospel, etc., in extending the Kingdom of God as well.

    Hope that helps,
    Blessings

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