Man charged in New London murder to defend himself at trial
A man charged in the stabbing death of a New London man in 2018 will represent himself at the start of his own trial next month.
Christopher Petteway, who has repeatedly complained to the court about his representation by court assigned attorneys, was granted a motion on Wednesday to defend himself during a trial expected to begin with jury selection in New London Superior Court on Feb. 28.
Petteway, 46, is charged with murder and violation of a standing criminal protective order in the death of 63-year-old Robert Parise, a salon owner and Petteway’s former housemate and intimate partner.
Police allege Petteway stabbed Parise multiple times at Parise’s Brainard Street home on Oct. 4, 2018, several months after Petteway served a 30-day stint in prison for a domestic violence incident involving Parise.
Parise was able to identify Petteway as his attacker before he died, police said. Police said Petteway had used his own key to enter the home.
New London Superior Court Judge Shari Murphy on Wednesday spent time questioning Petteway about his decision to waive his right to an attorney. Murphy explained that if convicted, Petteway could face up to at 70 years or more in prison. Petteway had previously rejected an offer from state prosecutors to serve 35 years in prison in exchange for a guilty plea.
Murphy asked Petteway about his education and ability to understand the criminal proceedings. Petteway will have a standby attorney but that attorney’s duties are limited in scope to procedural matters, Murphy said.
“You will have to develop a strategy. You will have to present your case,” Murphy told Petteway.
Petteway will additionally be responsible for picking jurors, filing motions, presenting and cross-examining witnesses.
Asked by Murphy if he was familiar with the law, Petteway said “I have all the information I need to educate myself. I’ve been studying.”
Petteway indicated he had spent $500 on law-related books and studying while in prison. He remains held on a $2.05 million bond.
“I believe it is in my best interest to do this myself,” Petteway said.
Petteway’s first motion as his own attorney was to request more time to prepare for the case, arguing he had been “disadvantaged.”
Murphy denied the motion and said the case had been delayed long enough. Petteway has filed multiple complaints with the court and fired his previous public defenders in favor of the appointment of a special counsel after juror selection had already started earlier this year.
His latest attorney is Christopher Duby who will now serve as standby counsel.
“This is not a situation where you are getting handed a file for the very first time,” Murphy said. “I’m not going to give you any special deference. This case has been pending for a long time.”
Assistant State’s Attorney Stephen Carney, who is prosecuting the case, said there needed to be a discussion with the judicial marshals about courtroom etiquette during the trial.
In court on Wednesday, Petteway was shackled at the wrists and ankles and wearing an orange prison jumpsuit. Defendants at trial are typically provided clothes and have their handcuffs but not ankle shackles removed because the latter are hidden from view by the jurors.
Murphy said there would be an ongoing conversation about safety and security in the courtroom if Petteway is allowed to roam the courtroom without restraints during trial.