HARTFORD, Conn. – A federal judge in Connecticut has rejected the arguments of a home invasion killer on death row who complained that the food he is being served in prison is not kosher.
Steven Hayes, convicted of killing a mother and two daughters, sued the Department of Correction in August, alleging the preparation practices for kosher meals in the kitchen at the state's highest-security prison do not conform to Jewish dietary laws.
Hayes describes himself in the lawsuit as an Orthodox Jew and says he's been requesting a kosher diet since May 2013. He says he has suffered "almost two years of emotional injury from having to choose between following God and starving or choosing sin to survive."
Hayes and Joshua Komisarjevsky were sentenced to die for the 2007 murders of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters, 17-year-old Hayley and 11-year-old Michaela, at the family's home in Cheshire. The victims were tied up, two of them were sexually assaulted and their bodies were found after the home was set on fire. Hawke-Petit's husband, Dr. William Petit, was severely beaten, but survived.
U.S. District Court Judge Alvin Thompson, in a ruling dated Tuesday, rejected Hayes' motions for a hearing and a temporary injunction.
The judge noted that Hayes is offered kosher meals, and the state Department of Correction has two rabbis who periodically monitor the preparation of kosher foods in the prison system. The judge said both rabbis certified that the food and the food preparation process comply with dietary laws.
"Although (Hayes) raises as an issue the lack of a reliable orthodox certificate or an onsite Jewish overseer, he provides no evidence suggesting that their absence leads to a finding that the meals are not kosher," the judge wrote.
Thompson did not throw out the lawsuit. But in rejecting the motions, he found there is not a likelihood that it will succeed.
In a handwritten amended complaint filed this month, Hayes said he hasn't eaten anything he considers to be nonkosher since Aug. 24 and now weighs less than 120 pounds. State prison documents show the 5-foot-7 Hayes weighed 170 pounds in 2007.
Karen Martucci, a spokeswoman for the Correction Department, said this month that Hayes has denied to prison officials that he is on a hunger strike.
Hayes also alleges he has been the subject of other religious discrimination in prison and was placed on a suicide watch for observing a fast during the Yom Kippur holiday last year.
This is not his first lawsuit against the department. In past litigation, none of which have been successful, Hayes has complained about his mental health care, harassment from prison staff and the temperature in his cell.