Smyrnes formally sentenced to death in 'Greensburg 6' killing
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To the defense attorneys for Ricky Smyrnes, there's little doubt that their client is mentally disabled and should not have faced a death sentence for his guilty verdict in the torture murder of Jennifer Daugherty in February 2010.
But Ms. Daugherty's stepfather Bobby Murphy said the jury "got it right" when it decided Thursday that Smyrnes was not mentally disabled and then agreed to sentence him to death for his conviction on second-degree murder.
Smyrnes, described by Westmoreland County District Attorney John Peck as the ringleader of the so-called "Greensburg Six" who tortured Ms. Daugherty, 30, of Mount Pleasant, for two days before killing her, was formally sentenced Friday by Westmoreland Common Pleas Judge Rita Hathaway.
Smyrnes was convicted of murder, conspiracy and kidnapping on Feb. 14.
After that conviction, the jury heard testimony about his mental capacity to determine if he should face the death penalty.
His lawyers, Michael DeRiso and Terrance Faye, argued that Smyrnes is mentally disabled and cannot be executed because the U.S. Supreme Court has held that executing mentally disabled people violates the Constitution.
Mr. Peck and his team countered that Smyrnes is not mentally disabled and should be held fully accountable for Ms. Daugherty's death. The jury sided with the prosecution on Thursday and then went on to deliberate and decide upon the death penalty for Smyrnes.
Judge Hathaway ordered Smyrnes to be taken to the State Correctional Institute Rockview in Bellefonte. Mr. DeRiso said the death penalty case comes with an automatic appeal -- first to the trial court and then to the state Supreme Court. He said he believes there are multiple appeal issues including the determination of mental capacity.
Smyrnes did not speak on his own behalf before the sentence was imposed nor did relatives of Ms. Daugherty.
"What else can we say. They've heard it all," said Denise Murphy, Ms. Daugherty's mother.
Smyrnes is the second defendant to face the death penalty for a conviction in the killing of Ms. Daugherty, who was tortured for two days in February 2010 before she was stabbed to death with a steak knife and had her body placed in a trash can and left at Greensburg Salem Middle School. In August, Melvin Knight, 20, was convicted of murder for stabbing Ms. Daugherty and sentenced by a jury to death.
Ms. Daugherty was mentally disabled, a condition that made her quick to trust and vulnerable to being taken advantage of, her family said.
Prosecutors said the torture she endured included being forced to consume urine, feces and bleach, forced-fed sleeping pills, being bound with Christmas lights and garland and having her hair chopped off. It took place in a dilapidated apartment inhabited by Smyrnes and five others.
They key government witness against Smyrnes was co-defendant Amber Meidinger, who described "family meetings" where the six took votes on whether Daugherty should be killed. They all voted yes and Smyrnes handed a knife to Knight and told him to stab her, according to testimony. She was stabbed 24 times.
Smyrnes' girlfriend, Angela Marinucci, is serving life in prison. She was 17 at the time of the killing, too young for the death penalty. Ms. Meidinger, 23, also faces a potential death penalty but has testified for the government in three trials. She has no deal with the prosecution.
Two defendants, Peggy Miller and Robert Masters, are awaiting trial but expected to enter pleas.
First Published March 1, 2013 2:45 pm