Girlfriend gets new trial in Fayette stabbing death
By Liz Zemba
Published: Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
A Fayette County woman who was sentenced to up to 40 years in prison in the stabbing death of her boyfriend has been granted a new trial because her attorney did not call witnesses whose testimony might have bolstered her allegations of domestic abuse.
A jury in 2010 convicted Dayna M. McMaster, 36, of Brownsville, of third-degree murder in the June 26, 2009, stabbing death of Clarence Blair III.
Judge Gerald R. Solomon, now a senior judge, sentenced her to the maximum of 20 to 40 years in prison.
Prosecutors said McMaster stabbed Blair, a tree-trimmer, while they were arguing on a gravel road near Cardale Elementary School in Redstone. Earlier in the evening, they had smoked crack cocaine together.
McMaster testified that Blair frequently abused her physically, sexually and verbally.
In a memorandum issued on Tuesday, a panel of three Superior Court judges granted the new trial on the basis that McMaster should have been allowed to present witnesses to testify they saw signs of that abuse in the form of bruises and other physical injuries.
At trial, McMaster testified that Blair choked her, beat her and held a knife to her throat, leaving her with black eyes and broken teeth.
The judges said the defense failed to call at least two witnesses who had offered to attest to those injuries — McMaster's mother, Paula Bosworth, and her stepmother, Robin McMaster.
“Evidence of appellant's abuse was vital to the jury's determination of credibility, and that by creating a reasonable doubt, that evidence may have produced acquittal,” the judges said. “Accordingly, we find lack of witnesses who observed and could affirm appellant's injuries likely prejudiced appellant.”
Court records indicate McMaster was represented at trial by two Uniontown attorneys, Jeremy Davis and Melinda Dellarose.
Davis testified during a post-conviction relief act hearing for McMaster that he did not call any other witnesses regarding the abuse because those witnesses saw McMaster's injuries after the alleged incidents of abuse.
“Attorney Davis expounded that he did not think that their testimony would prove helpful because they did not witness the beatings and any testimony as to how appellant's injuries were caused would be hearsay,” the judges said in the memorandum. “Moreover, Attorney Davis provided evidence at trial to support appellant's allegations of her tumultuous relationship with the victim through her own testimony, in which she alluded to charges filed and convictions sustained against the victim for assaults upon appellant.”
In addition, Davis called a forensic pathologist to testify to the abuse.
A new trial date in Fayette County was not immediately set.
Liz Zemba is a reporter for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-601-2166 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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