Last week was an important one for those who believe in capital punishment or that persons under attack have the right to defend themselves with justified force under the law.

In a regional case, a 65-year-old man was riding his bicycle on a trail in West Reading last Wednesday when three teenage boys knocked him off his bicycle in an apparent robbery attempt. The trio, two aged 15, and the other 16, had skipped school that day and reportedly went on a crime spree, robbing two pedestrians before attacking the bicyclist.

This time, they targeted the wrong victim.

After being knocked him his bicycle and pinned against a fence, the victim pulled out a licensed handgun and shot two of the attackers. One assailant, Julias Johnson, who was on probation for prior "criminal activity" and was supposed to report to the probation office that afternoon, was pronounced dead at the scene.

The second teen was hospitalized with a single gunshot wound to his neck and is expected to survive. The third teen was sent to the Youth Detention Center.

On Thursday, Berks County District Attorney John Adams called the shootings justified. Adams said that although he does not condone violence, the shooter did not provoke the attack, had feared for his life and had no choice but to defend himself against the teens.

The other crime story which had proponents of the death penalty applauding last Friday was the sentencing to death of Joshua Komisarjevsky who was involved in one of the most hideous crimes of this generation in Cheshire, Conn.

On the morning of July 23, 2007, Komisarjevsky and an accomplice invaded the home of Dr. William A. Petit Jr., 50, , brutalizing and raping the victims before setting the house on fire before they ran from the scene. When police arrived, they found Dr. Petit had been severely beaten, and the bodies of his wife, Jennifer Hawke-Petit, 48, and their daughters, Hayley, 17, and Michaela, 11. The police said that the victims had been tied up in separate rooms, and that Ms. Hawke-Petit and one of the daughters were sexually assaulted before the house was set on fire.

During his trial, Komisarjevsky showed no remorse and even laughed occasionally in the courtroom. He admitted to beating Dr. Petit and molesting his younger daughter and taking photos of her, but insisted that it was his accomplice, Steven Hayes, who was convicted of the murders and sentenced to death in 2010, who wanted to kill the family.

At Hayes' previous sentencing in December of 2010, Presiding Judge Jon Blue formally imposed six death sentences, one for each of the capital charges Steven Hayes was convicted of. He then added a sentence of 106 years for other crimes Hayes committed during the home invasion, including kidnapping, burglary, and assault.

"This is a terrible sentence, but is, in truth, a sentence you wrote for yourself in flames. May God have mercy on your soul," the judge said.

By Jim Zbick

jzbick@tnonline.com