DA seeks to bar Smyrnes' mental defense
Westmoreland County prosecutors want accused killer Ricky Smyrnes barred from seeking a diminished capacity defense at his upcoming capital murder trial.
District Attorney John Peck said in a court document filed on Thursday that Smyrnes told a defense expert witness that he did not participate in the torture and murder of 30-year-old Jennifer Daugherty.
“Inasmuch as the defendant has failed to concede criminal liability for the crime of criminal homicide of Jennifer Lee Daugherty, testimony of the ... defendant's diminished capacity to commit such a crime is inadmissible,” Peck wrote.
Smyrnes, 26, formerly of Irwin and McKeesport, is charged with first-degree murder and criminal homicide for the Feb. 11, 2010, stabbing death of Daugherty, a mentally challenged woman from Mt. Pleasant.
Prosecutors contend Smyrnes was the ringleader of a group of six people who shared a Greensburg apartment and held Daugherty captive for more than two days, then tortured and killed her.
Daugherty's body, bound with Christmas lights and garland, was discovered stuffed in a trash can left under a truck in the Greensburg Salem Middle School parking lot.
Peck has said he will seek the death penalty against Smyrnes if he is convicted of first-degree murder.
Co-defendant Melvin Knight pleaded guilty to first-degree murder last April and a jury sentenced him to death in August.
Smyrnes' girlfriend, Angela Marinucci, 20, was convicted in 2011 of first-degree murder and is serving a life prison sentence.
She was ineligible for the death penalty because she was 17 at the time of her arrest.
Defense lawyers Mike DeRiso and Terrance Faye have said they intend to prove that Smyrnes is mentally disabled and suffers from multiple personality disorder, factors that could exclude a first-degree murder conviction and disqualify him from the death penalty.
In his motion, Peck said Dr. Alice Applegate, a listed defense witness who conducted a psychological exam of Smyrnes, issued a report in November that stated Smyrnes denied involvement in the murder.
Diminished capacity requires psychiatric testimony about a defendant's mental disorder that specifically affects cognitive functions, Peck said.
“If a defendant does not admit that he killed the victim, but rather advances an innocence defense, then evidence of diminished capacity is inadmissible,” Peck wrote.
Neither DeRiso nor Faye could be reached for comment on Thursday.
The jury for Smyrnes' trial was selected last week. Testimony before Westmoreland County Judge Rita Hathaway is scheduled to begin on Feb. 4.
Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or email@example.com.
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.
- New Florence assistant fire chief charged with having sex with juvenile
- Soccer league seeks access to borough’s field at Willows Park
- Ligonier council approves design changes to Diamond
- Former Mich. lawmaker uses D.C. trip to lobby for better veterans health care
- Woman testifies about alleged sex assault in Arnold
- Youngwood council delays vote on rental property inspections
- Mt. Pleasant Township Lions Club to host all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast
- Fickle weather gives pumpkin growers in Pennsylvania fits
- Latrobe infant found in filth, police say
- Officials criticize West Newton code enforcement officer
- Greensburg mayor race features write-in hopeful vs. businessman