Was It the Crime Novels? Prison Books Bring Plot Twist to Cheshire Killings

NY Times, Dateline: NEW HAVEN — As the trial approaches for one of the men charged in the triple-homicide home invasion in Cheshire, CT in 2007, all the motions, requests for evidence, and demands that one would expect in a complex capital case have flown back and forth between the defense and prosecutors.

But one stood out, tantalizingly. The defense said it would request that the names of books that one of the accused men, Steven Hayes, checked out of a prison library before the killings not be admitted as evidence. The books, the defense indicated in one motion, included plots that were “criminally malevolent in the extreme.”

Mr. Hayes’s lawyers suggested that prison librarians might have given him what amounted to a literary blueprint for the crime, one that already has what some see as a literary predecessor of sorts: it has been compared with the 1959 Kansas killings described in Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood.”

The defense lawyers’ suggestion that prison library books could have shaped the crime — or that knowing Mr. Hayes read them could turn jurors against him — has created a strange kind of guessing game about the literary interests of Mr. Hayes, 46, a career thief and drug abuser whose education topped out at a high school equivalency degree.

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