Judge orders Conn. lawyer to explain why he spoke outside court about 2007 home invasion case

A judge on Monday ordered an attorney for one of two men charged with killing a mother and her two daughters in a 2007 home invasion to explain why he shouldn't face criminal contempt proceedings for speaking out about the case.

New Haven Superior Court Judge Roland Fasano ordered attorney Jeremiah Donovan to appear at a Oct. 6 hearing. He said Donovan's statement Friday violated a court-imposed gag order and could prejudice the trials of both men.

Donovan represents Joshua Komisarjevsky, who is awaiting trial. His co-defendant, Steven Hayes, is on trial.

Komisarjevsky and Hayes are charged with capital felony murder, sexual assault and other crimes in the 2007 deaths of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters, 17-year-old Hayley and 11-year-old Michaela. The girls died of smoke inhalation. Their mother was strangled.

Donovan said Friday he did not believe he was violating the gag order and was trying to clear up what he said was a misunderstanding by the victim's relatives related to charges that Komisarjevsky sexually assaulted one of the girls.

"We are deeply sympathetic to the sadness of the Petit family, and I realize this is probably just a very small solace," Donovan told reporters.

His comments outraged the girls' family.

"We don't need his sympathy, we don't want his sympathy," said Johanna Chapman, the girl's aunt.

William Petit, the girl's father and the sole survivor of the home invasion, said he hoped Donovan would be cited for contempt of court.

A telephone message left Monday for Donovan was not immediately returned.

Donovan's statement came the same day the jury heard testimony that a flammable liquid was spilled on or around the two girls in their bedrooms before their house was set on fire. The girls had been tied to their beds, authorities say.

Hayes' trial resumes Tuesday.