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Defense lawyer argues against death penalty in Daugherty case

Rich Cholodofsky
| Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The attorney for one of six people charged with the February torture slaying of a mentally handicapped Greensburg woman wants a judge to rule that the death penalty is cruel and unusual punishment.

In a pre-trial motion filed Wednesday morning, Melvin Knight, 20, also contended that he cannot get a fair trial in Westmoreland County because of the intense media scrutiny that has followed the case since the body 30-year-old Jennifer Daugherty was found Feb. 11 stuffed in a trash can and left in the snowy parking lot at Greensburg Salem Middle School.

Defense lawyer Jeffrey Miller argued that capital punishment is unconstitutional and wants Westmoreland County Judge Rita Hathaway to bar the prosecution from seeking the death penalty.

Last month Westmoreland County District Attorney John Peck announced he would seek the death penalty against Knight, along with 20-year-old Amber Meidinger and 24-year-old Ricky Smyrnes for their role in the Daugherty slaying. The prosecution is not seeking the death penalty against three other co-defendants, Peggy Miller, 27, Robert Loren Masters, 36, and Angela Marinucci, 18.

Police said Daugherty was tortured for nearly three days before she was stabbed to death. The defendants allegedly tied Daugherty up with Christmas lights amd made her drink concoctions of cleaning products, urine and feces before she was killed.

All six defendants were charged with first-degree murder.

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