2013-11-28 / Local & State

Appeal Argued In Western Pa. Torture Killing Case

GREENSBURG, Pa. (AP) – Attorneys for a western Pennsylvania man sentenced to death in the torture murder of a mentally disabled woman say he shouldn’t be on death row because he wasn’t given a fair chance to defend himself.

Defense attorneys Mike DeRiso and Terrance Faye said Westmoreland County prosecutors failed to disclose evidence that would have helped Ricky Smyrnes, 27, argue that another man orchestrated the February 2010 murder of Jennifer Daugherty, 30, The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported.

Authorities say Daugherty was held in a dingy apartment for more than two days and tormented, humiliated and finally killed by people she initially believed were her friends.

Prosecutors have alleged that Smyrnes instructed Melvin Knight to kill the victim, and Knight then stabbed Daugherty and helped Smyrnes choke her to ensure that she was dead. Knight pleaded guilty last year and was sentenced to death. Smyrnes’ attorneys argued at trial that their client participated in the attack under duress from Knight.

Attorneys for Smyrnes said they were never told about a videotape showing Knight fighting with jail guards two years after Daugherty was killed. The tape could have been used “to show who Mr. Knight was and how Mr. Smyrnes succumbed” to him, DeRiso said.

District Attorney John Peck called the tape irrelevant, saying it doesn’t show that Smyrnes “was present or was aware of what happened.”

Smyrnes also is appealing his conviction and sentence on a number of other grounds, including that he should’ve been allowed to plead guilty but mentally ill.

Another defendant convicted in the case, 21-yearold Angela Marinucci, is awaiting a resentencing hearing, since she was 17 at the time of arrest and is ineligible for the death penalty.

Three other defendants are awaiting trial in the case.

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