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Westmoreland

Prosecutors need more time before sentencing trial for Melvin Knight

| Monday, June 25, 2018, 5:12 p.m.
Melvin Knight is escorted from the  Westmoreland County Courthouse on Aug. 31, 2012, after being sentenced to death for the murder of Jennifer Daugherty.
Sean Stipp | Tribune-Review
Melvin Knight is escorted from the Westmoreland County Courthouse on Aug. 31, 2012, after being sentenced to death for the murder of Jennifer Daugherty.

Westmoreland County prosecutors said Monday they need more time to prepare for the death penalty sentencing for one of six Greensburg roommates convicted of the 2010 torture slaying of a mentally disabled woman.

Melvin Knight, 28, has been on death row since he was sentenced in 2012. A state appeals court vacated the sentence in 2016 and a new penalty phase trial is scheduled to begin July 9.

Common Pleas Court Judge Rita Hathaway scheduled a hearing Tuesday on several pretrial issues. She could address the prosecution's request for a postponement. At that hearing, the defense is expected to argue that Knight wants to withdraw his guilty plea.

Knight, in 2012, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and other offenses in connection with the stabbing death of 30-year-old Jennifer Daugherty. Prosecutors contended Knight and five others held Daugherty captive for more than two days, during which they beat and tortured her before her death. Her body, bound in Christmas garland and lights, was discovered in a trash can left under a truck in a snow-covered parking lot at a Greensburg middle school.

District Attorney John Peck said in court documents that the prosecution this month received a comprehensive psychological report from the defense that claims Knight has an intellectual disability that would render him ineligible for the death penalty.

“Prior to the delivery of (the report), the commonwealth had no indication that Knight intended to make a claim of intellectual disability and Knight made no such claim during his first trial in August 2012,” Peck said.

The district attorney said an expert hired by the prosecution to review those findings cannot complete his work before the July trial is scheduled to begin.

Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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