Denny Petitt

Denny Petitt

  • Incident Year:  2009
  • Jurisdiction: Sangamon County, Illinois
  • Charge: Murder/Intent to Kill/Injure
  • Sentence: 30 years Year of Conviction: 2010
  • Contributing Causes: Ineffective Assistance of Counsel, Prosecutorial Overreaching, Unreliable or Improper Forensics, Jury Misconduct
  • Representation: Richard H. McLeese 

In 2010, Denny Petitt was wrongfully convicted of murdering his brother. Denny acted instinctively in self-defense, as his brother violently assaulted him.

Denny’s brother, Tony Petitt, was well known for being violent especially when he drank alcohol.  Tony had recently been arrested for assaulting his girlfriend/roommate so severely she was hospitalized.  Afterward, the girlfriend/roommate filed and received a 2 year Order of Protection against Tony.  Tony was still in jail at the time.  Denny bailed Tony out of jail at the request of Tony’s daughter, but she stated she didn’t want Tony to stay with her. So Denny took Tony in since he didn’t have a place to go.  Both brothers and a witness had been drinking alcohol the night of March 30, 2009. Tony severely beat Denny that night.  In an effort to stop Tony, in the middle of being beaten, Denny picked up an object and hit Tony, which resulted in Tony’s death. Denny tried to revive Tony while he told the witness to call 911.  When police and paramedics arrived Denny opened the door and stated “I killed my brother”.  He was handcuffed and escorted to a squad car where he repeatedly asked the officer about his brother’s condition, hoping the paramedics had helped Tony. The officers refused to tell him.  Denny was then taken to the Sheriff’s Department for questioning.  He was interviewed for an hour and a half by Detectives because he was too intoxicated to voluntarily waive his right to remain silent. He spent most of that time repeatedly asking the Detectives if his brother was dead, hoping it wouldn’t be true.  He repeatedly told the detectives he didn’t know why his brother beat him up, except for Tony being drunk and violent.  After being told his brother was dead Denny broke down and cried sometimes uncontrollably. During his hour and a half statement he stated “I didn’t mean to kill him” 64 times, “I love/loved my brother” 17 times, “I can’t believe I killed my brother” 38 times, “I’m drunk” 11 times, “I was defending myself” 10 times. He also stated “it should have been me”, and “I wish it would have been me“.  Denny was within hours charged with First Degree Murder.

The witness stated during his interview with the Sheriff’s Department that Denny acted in self-defense and that Tony just started beating him. This witness died 7 months before trial due to a health condition and his statement was never shown to the jury.  At trial, Orders of Protections and Police Reports that were filed against Tony for his violence weren’t allowed in for the jury to hear, including 6 Orders of Protection that his own immediate family had filed against him.  One of those Orders of Protection and Police Reports filed by the girlfriend/roommate stated that “after Tony finished beating her, he went back in the living room and laid down on the couch” as if it never happened, which is very similar to what happened to Denny. There was another Police Report where Tony had been arrested for biting a man’s ear lobe off during a fight. The jury never saw these Orders of Protection or Police Reports as the Judge refused to allow them in as evidence.  No experts were hired by Denny’s defense counsel to testify on his behalf about forensics or about his level of intoxication that night. After trial, the Jury Foreman was discovered to have played on a pool league with Denny’s brother, a defense witness (Denny’s nephew), and a second defense witness. The juror never said a word to the Judge during the trial about knowing these witnesses or Denny’s brother and even appointed himself as jury foreman. Denny’s siblings and family understands how violent Tony was and expressed this to the Prosecution and Detectives but that didn’t stop them from pursuing a First Degree Murder Conviction.  Denny’s siblings and family supports him completely.

Here are some of the Orders of Protection & Police Reports filed against Tony that the Judge did not allow in as evidence for the jury to see. The reason the Judge stated was there was no proof Denny was aware of his brother’s violence.

February 2009 ~  Victim:  Roommate/Girlfriend

Charge: Domestic Battery

  • Officers responded to 911 call that Tony had battered the victim.  Victim answered door to Officers while holding a handful of her hair while she was pulling more loose hair from her head.  She stated Tony took her car and it angered her, she told him he could not take her car because he had a revoked driver’s license.  She stated to Tony to “leave her car alone”.  She then turned to walk away towards her bedroom and Tony unexpectedly walked in the bedroom after her.  He then punched her in the forehead two or three times, causing her to bleed. He then kicked her right leg and punched her right arm.  She stated he then pulled her hair out. She said that when Tony finished beating her, he went back in the living room and laid down on the couch.  She stated she thought Tony would not stop until she was dead. This happened a month before Tony assaulted Denny.

April 2007 ~ Victim: Roommate/Girlfriend 

Charge: Domestic Battery, Resisting Arrest

  • Officer responded to 911 call of  Battery in Progress, Officer heard disturbance in the residence and then a female scream, Officer forced entry and was met by Tony who appeared to be extremely aggravated. Tony was ordered to the ground; he refused and had to be tackled to the ground.  Tony refused to roll over and put his hands behind his back and was still trying to lunge at the victim.  Tony was then tazed off of the victim by the Officer.  Victim stated Tony pulled her hair and drug her around the living room causing her to hit her right forearm on an unknown object.  Tony then smacked her on the right side of her head. Another witness (Roommate #2) stated that Tony grabbed the victim by the hair and was jerking the victims head violently around and she (Roommate #2) feared for her safety and left the residence to call police.  The victim being drug around caused the victim to have a large chunk of hair ripped out and caused bleeding at the scalp; she also had small bruising on the right arm.

August 2006 ~ Victim: Roommate/Girlfriend

Charge: Knowingly Damage to Property, Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon, Domestic Battery

  • Tony grabbed victim leaving bruises  under her arm pits, he then beat the victim with a pool cue. Victim went outside to get away from Tony.  Victim jumped in her pick-up truck and tried to leave. Once she was in truck,  Tony grabbed a baseball bat and shattered the windshield all over the victim causing the glass to shatter all over the victim causing cuts on the victims legs. Victim drove several houses down to call 911, Tony came out in the street and started walking with the baseball bat yelling for the victim.  Tony was then battered by unknown individuals causing injuries to his right eye, back and ribs. He was then arrested.

September 2003 ~ Victim: Wife

Charge: Domestic Battery

  • Tony showed up at house early in morning yelling stating he was “going to f*** his wife and her world up”.  He then lunged at the victim as if he was going to hit her, grabbed neck, choked her and pushed up against a wall.

June 2002~ Victim: Wife 

Charge: Domestic Battery

  • Victim stated after she refused to have sex with Tony, he became belligerent and started to hit and choke her.  Victim stated he choked her, pushed her, ripped her fingernails off and threatened to kill her.  Tony further threatened he would buy a gun and kill to kill the victim, the children and the grandchildren.  Once arrested and while in the squad car, Tony stated to an Officer, that he wanted to get to jail to make bond, so he could take care of the problem by shooting his wife in the head then shooting himself because he was not going back to jail.

June 2002 ~ Victim: Daughter 

Charge: Domestic Battery

  • Victim stated she heard Tony and her Mother arguing and thought it turned physical.  Victim went downstairs and tried to separate Tony from her Mother.  Tony shoved the victim out of the way while he yelled that he was going to “blow her head off”.

February 2002 ~ Victims: Wife & Daughter

Charge: Domestic Battery

  • Neighbor called 911.  Officers met with Daughter who stated she heard a verbal argument between Tony and her Mother/Wife.  She stated she then heard noises and thought the argument turned physical, when she entered the bedroom Tony was pushing her Mother/Wife.  The Daughter tried to get him to stop, Tony then started pushing the Daughter and pulled her by her hair.  Both victims then went downstairs.  Tony then came downstairs and started going after his Wife.  Tony was slapping her and pushing her around.  The Daughter tried to break it up again and Tony started pushing her and pulling her hair.  When Officers spoke with the Wife, she had a handful of hair that she stated Tony had pulled out.

August 1993 ~ Victim: Male

Charge: Battery

  • Tony struck Male victim with an unknown object.

May 1988~ Victim:  Male Police Officer      

Charge: Aggravated Assault

  •  Tony lunged at Officer with fists clenched and raised.

May 1987~ Victim: Male #1 & Male #2

Charge: Battery

  • Tony bit the right hand of male victim #1 and bit the right ear lobe off of male victim #2.

January 1987~ Victim: Male

Charge: Battery

  • Info still pending

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