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    Thursday, February 29, 2024

    New London murder trial to start with or without defendant

    In this file photo, Christopher Petteway appears Friday, Oct. 5, 2018, in New London Superior Court on murder charges in the stabbing death of Robert Parise. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
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    Robert Parise, in an undated photo, was fatally stabbed October 4, 2018 in New London. (Photo courtesy of the Parise family)

    Christopher Petteway told New London Superior Court Judge Shari Murphy on Thursday that he has no plans to attend his own murder trial, which is scheduled to start on Monday.

    “It’s my choice not to come to court,” an agitated Petteway said during a virtual hearing with the judge and two attorneys.

    Petteway, dressed in a yellow prison shirt, was seated in a room at the prison where he is being held.

    “I’m not coming to court until I’m allowed to represent myself or have a different attorney,” Petteway said. “I’m not doing it any more. It causes me trauma.”

    Petteway, 46, is charged with murder and violation of a standing criminal protective order in the Oct. 4, 2018 stabbing death of his former housemate and partner, 63-year-old salon owner Robert Parise of New London.

    Petteway had allegedly threatened to kill Parise following his release from a prison sentence related to domestic violence. At the time of his death, Parise was a client of Safe Futures, the area agency that assists victims of domestic violence.

    Often talking over Judge Murphy during Thursday’s virtual hearing, Petteway at one point dumped a manilla folder of paperwork onto the floor. He repeated his claims that his Constitutional rights are being violated by being disciplined by the Department of Correction for refusing transport to the courthouse.

    Disruptions are nothing new in the case. Petteway has had various complaints since the court proceedings started, writing letters and filing hand-written motions. His complaints about back problems led to special transportation to and from the prison. He was allowed to fire his original two public defenders.

    Petteway later complained about New Haven Attorney Christopher Duby, who had been appointed by the court to represent him, and was granted a request to represent himself at trial with Duby as stand-by counsel.

    “I have been extremely accommodating to your requests,” Murphy said.

    Petteway, however, after initially appearing for the start of jury selection, had again refused to be transported to court.

    Murphy appointed Duby to represent him, ruling that Petteway had waived the right to represent himself.

    Jury selection was completed this week, but Duby has since filed a motion to withdraw as Petteway’s attorney since Petteway refuses to speak to him.

    “The defendant’s failure to appear in court and communicate with the undersigned have made it impossible for the undersigned to represent him in compliance with the Rules of Professional Conduct,” Duby wrote in his motion.

    Murphy denied Duby’s March 17 withdrawal request.

    Duby, who was present with Assistant State’s Attorney Stephen Carney at Thursday’s virtual meeting, has appealed that decision to the Appellate Court and additionally filed a motion to halt the proceeding while his appeal is heard. Duby’s “motion for stay” has not yet been ruled on and it is unclear whether the motion might delay the start of trial.

    Petteway has filed another motion to represent himself, which Judge Murphy said would be taken up on Monday prior to presentation of evidence in the case.

    Murphy again reminded Petteway of his rights, which includes the right not to come to court and not to testify. She said that Petteway can come to court whenever he wants and that a special viewing room would be set up to accommodate him in the event he does not want to be in the courtroom.

    Petteway, who has domestic violence-related criminal convictions in Virginia, Florida and New York dating back to 2001, has been evaluated by a team of clinicians twice since his arrest and found competent to stand trial.

    Petteway remains held in lieu of $2.05 million bond and housed at MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution in Suffield. He has a pending lawsuit against the city of New London and Officer Jeffrey Nichols seeking damages connected to an April 16, 2017 incident when he was struck by a New London Police vehicle.

    g.smith@theday.com

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