Jury selection to begin for alleged ringleader in Greensburg torture slaying
Jury selection was scheduled to begin Monday in the capital murder trial of the man police contend was the ringleader of a band of Greensburg roommates charged with the torture slaying of a mentally challenged woman nearly three years ago.
According to prosecutors, Ricky Smyrnes, 26, formerly of McKeesport, served as head of the household and orchestrated more than two days of torture and the stabbing death of 30-year-old Jennifer Daugherty.
The Mt. Pleasant woman was found Feb. 11, 2010, bound with Christmas lights and garland and stuffed into a plastic garbage bin that was left under a parked truck in the snow-covered parking lot at Greensburg Salem Middle School.
The jury selected this week will be the third to hear evidence in the torture slaying.
In August, Melvin Knight was sentenced to death by a jury for his role in the slaying. Knight pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in April.
Smyrnes' girlfriend, Angela Marinucci, was convicted of first-degree murder in May 2011 and sentenced to life in prison. Because she was 17 at the time of her arrest, she was ineligible for the death penalty.
“When you have multiple trials like this you have an advantage for the prosecution. They have heard the witnesses before and they can adapt to what they said before,” said John Burkoff, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.
Smyrnes' case will differ from the previous two trials in part because the defense is expected to claim that mental illness played a role in case.
Defense attorneys Mike DeRiso and Terrence Faye in September attempted to have Smyrnes plead guilty but mentally ill to first-degree murder. That plea essentially would have taken the death penalty off the table.
Westmoreland County Judge Rita Hathaway rejected that effort and said a jury should determine whether Smyrnes' mental illness excludes him from being condemned to death if he is found guilty.
Last summer, Smyrnes' defense team claimed their client suffered from multiple personalities but, after a mental health evaluation, he was found competent to stand trial.
In addition to concerns about mental illness, the defense claims Smyrnes' low intelligence prohibits the death penalty. Tests place Smyrnes' IQ between 67 and 75, the defense has claimed. The average IQ in the United States is usually set at 100.
Jurors will consider more than just Smyrnes' mental health and intelligence, Burkoff said.
“Much of what the jury decides is based on the heinousness of the crime. They will hear how awful it was, and a big piece of the prosecution is to show how gruesome, heinous or evil it was,” Burkoff said.
Hathaway has asked that 400 prospective jurors be available this week. Eighty potential panelists initially will be questioned by lawyers and the judge on Monday.
Testimony in the trial is slated to begin on Feb. 4.
Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- West Newton man found dead in helicopter wreckage near Rostraver Airport
- East Huntingdon man dies following police chase
- Police: Westmoreland woman forged painkiller prescriptions
- Westmoreland historical society honors efforts by Scaife, Fagan, Norwin group
- Search for pilot of ultralight aircraft to resume Thursday
- Knife-wielding man attacks 2 in Sheetz lot in Greensburg
- Groups sponsor candidates forum in Monessen
- Scottdale’s Friends of the Library will meet tonight
- Franklin Regional stabbing suspect could leave Pa. for treatment
- Police: Charges unwarranted for Yough shop class project
- Bolivar couple charged with endangerment; baby nearly drowned, police say