Judge urged to uphold death sentence for Knight
Melvin Knight should remain on death row even if a judge decides that jurors in his case did not take an oath before a sentencing trial last year, a Westmoreland County prosecutor said in written legal arguments filed on Monday.
Assistant District Attorney Leo Ciaramitaro in a two-page supplemental court filing said the lack of a sworn jury constitutes harmless error and is not cause for Knight to receive a new trial.
Knight, 23, formerly of Swissvale, Allegheny County, pleaded guilty last year to first-degree murder. A two-week sentencing trial resulted in his being condemned to death for the February 2010 torture and slaying of Jennifer Daugherty, a mentally disabled woman from Mt. Pleasant.
The prosecution argued that Knight, along with five other people who shared a Greensburg apartment, held Daugherty captive for more than two days. During that time, authorities say, Daugherty was beaten, tortured and eventually stabbed to death. Her body was found bound with Christmas lights and garland, and stuffed in a plastic trash container under a parked truck at a Greensburg school.
Knight's defense team has said he should receive a new trial because jurors were not sworn in before the sentencing trial.
At a hearing in May before Westmoreland County Judge Rita Hathaway, 11 jurors testified they that were sworn in. But two court officials, including the court reporter who recorded the official transcript of the trial, said they didn't recall an oath being given.
Ciaramitaro said that even if it is determined that an oath was not administered, Knight's sentence should stand.
“Since the defendant has failed to specifically allege how the failure to swear the jury has actually prejudiced him, the claim must fail under this standard of review,” Ciaramitaro said.
He suggested that while the issue has not been addressed by Pennsylvania courts, a federal court ruling last year determined that failure to swear in a jury does not affect a defendant's rights.
Furthermore, the prosecution noted, Knight's lawyers did not object during the trial to the jury's not being sworn in.
“It is well settled that to preserve an issue for appeal, it must be objected to before or during the trial,” Ciaramitaro wrote.
Rich Cholodofsky is a Trib Total Media staff writer. 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.
- Flight 93 memorial fire hints at struggle to safeguard historic artifacts
- The real Captain Phillips brings story of piracy to St. Vincent College
- Southwest Greensburg man died of injuries in accident in Bell
- DEP orders cleanup of former Jeannette Glass property to resume
- Route 217 bridge across Loyalhanna Creek reopens early
- Laurel Mountain State Park ski plans will go to Ligonier Township supervisors
- Former Ligonier Township supervisor accused of abusing position, viewing porn on the job
- Missing Southwest Greensburg man found dead at crash site in Bell
- Greater Latrobe teachers, school board approve 5-year contract
- Physicist found joy in family, friends, work, wine
- Second phase of Westmoreland Airpark in Unity opens