GREENSBURG (KDKA) — The alleged ringleader of the so-called Greensburg 6 is charged with first-degree murder in the torture death of 30-year-old Jennifer Daugherty.
His attorneys are planning to use a mental health defense to avoid the death penalty.
Saint Vincent College Criminology Program Director Bruce Antkowiak says considering this defense, in light of a heinous crime, takes a special type of juror.
“You’re asking that juror to look, not to ignore that, but to look at broader perspective of the mental condition of this particular defendant,” said Antkowiak, who is also the author of the Pennsylvania criminal procedures manual.
Jurors will first have to decide if Smyrnes is guilty of first-degree murder.
If so, they’ll then have to decide if he is mentally-handicapped. That is something that would make him ineligible for the death penalty if the jury finds it unanimously.
In order for that to happen, his attorneys will try to prove three things:
First, that Smyrnes has sub-average intellectual functioning, something that is generally reflected by an IQ score in the 65 to 75 range.
Second, they’ll have to show that he has difficulties adjusting to the demands of daily life.
Third, they’ll also have to prove that both of those first two criteria were evident before Smyrnes turned 18.
“There’s going to be a lot of technical testimony, there’s going to be a lot of psychiatric testimony, there is going to be a lot of testimony way up that will make this sound in certain respects more like a hearing regarding a person’s mental competence in a mental health setting than it would be a criminal trial,” said Antkowiak.
If the jury does not unanimously find that Smyrnes is mentally-handicapped, prosecutors will present evidence of aggravating circumstances and jurors will have to weigh any mitigating factors that are found, including mental handicaps, if at least one juror believes it, to determine whether Smyrnes would get life or death.
“It generally proves to be an experience that stays with people for a long, long time,” Antkowiak said.
The 12 main jurors have now been seated in the case.