Mental infirmity defense rejected in Greensburg homicide trial
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Lawyers for Ricky Smyrnes won't be allowed to raise mental infirmity as a defense at his murder trial in Greensburg, the judge in the case has decided.
Mr. Smyrnes, on trial for the torture-slaying of 30-year-old Jennifer Daugherty in a Greensburg apartment in 2010, is facing the death penalty.
His lawyers want to spare him that fate by introducing evidence and testimony from a psychiatrist that his mind is so impaired that he couldn't form the intent to kill Ms. Daugherty.
Intent is necessary for the first-degree murder conviction that District Attorney John Peck is seeking. If he gets that conviction, he will then ask the jury to sentence Mr. Smyrnes to death.
Rita Hathaway, the judge presiding over the trial, said the mental disability defense could be raised during the penalty phase of the trial should Mr. Smyrnes be convicted, but not before.
The judge agreed with Mr. Peck, who had argued that Mr. Smyrnes can't say he wasn't responsible for killing Ms. Daugherty -- a claim he made to the psychiatrist -- and argue at the same time that he's not mentally competent.
The ruling was another setback for Mr. Smyrnes and his lawyers, Mike DeRiso and Terrance Faye, who had previously tried to have Mr. Smyrnes plead guilty but mentally ill.
The judge rejected that plea.
Now, the defense will have to focus entirely on rebutting the testimony of government witnesses who describe Mr. Smyrnes as the ringleader of the so-called "Greensburg Six" accused of abusing Ms. Daugherty before her death.
The prosecution says Mr. Smyrnes controlled and influenced his five roommates to hold Ms. Daugherty captive while beating and torturing her for more than two days before one of them, Melvin Knight, stabbed her to death.
Her body was discovered on Feb. 11, 2010, stuffed in a trash can and dumped in a school parking lot a few blocks from the courthouse where the trial is taking place.
The star witness Friday and Monday was another member of the six, Amber Meidinger, 23, who is also facing a potential death penalty.
She said Mr. Smyrnes spurred on the others to beat Ms. Daugherty, steal her money and force her to drink concoctions of feces, urine and bleach.
Their anger toward Ms. Daugherty was ignited and fostered by Mr. Smyrnes' girlfriend, Angela Marinucci, 20, who saw Ms. Daugherty as a rival for Mr. Smyrnes' affection, Ms. Meidinger testified.
Ms. Meidinger testified at Ms. Marinucci's trial and against Mr. Knight, with whom she has a child.
Ms. Marinucci is serving life in prison. Mr. Knight is on death row.
First Published February 12, 2013 12:00 am