GREENSBURG (KDKA) – The penalty phase of the murder trial for the convicted leader of the Greensburg 6 began this morning in Westmoreland County.
A jury found 26-year-old Ricky Smyrnes guilty last week of first, second and third-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder and kidnapping and also kidnapping.
It took just about two hours for the panel of eight men and four women to reach the verdict.
The charges stemmed from the torture and murder of 30-year old Jennifer Daugherty in February of 2010.
Jurors will now have to decide whether Smyrnes spends the rest of his life in prison or gets the death penalty.
In his opening statement Tuesday morning, District Attorney John Peck told jurors that the decision ahead of them is one that, “you make with your head, rationally, based only on the evidence.”
He continued to tell the jury that even though Smyrnes was not the one who actually inflicted the fatal wounds, the “death of Jennifer Daugherty was the direct result of the defendant’s efforts.”
He went on to say that those efforts are not the efforts of someone who is mentally retarded.
Peck also told jurors something he told jurors during the trial of Smyrnes’ co-defendant Melvin Knight. “There are some killings that are worse than others. There are some defendants that are worse than others. Ricky Smyrnes is one of those defendants. He is worse than others. Life in prison is not sufficient. Life in prison is woefully inadequate,” Peck said.
Defense attorney Terri Faye, who is representing Smyrnes during the penalty phase, told jurors it was their duty to “listen fairly and objectively and treat Ricky as you would anyone else, including a member of your family if they were sitting over there.”
Faye went on to tell jurors that the guilt phase of the trial was about Daugherty, but that the penalty phase is about Smyrnes.
“I want you to know Ricky. I want you to know who he is,” Faye said.
Faye told jurors, “Ricky’s childhood was chaos. Neglect and abuse are abundant through the records.”
She told the jurors of a time when a therapist at Western Psych warned a prospective adoptive parent about getting involved with then 10-year-old Smyrnes saying, “Ricky’s broke and he can’t be fixed.”
Faye said by age 6, Smyrnes had already tried marijuana, cocaine, heroin and beer. In addition, his father had run him over with a car causing him to be hospitalized with two broken arms and two broken legs.
Jurors also heard from a woman who has lived next door to the Smyrnes family for 35 years. Virginia Glagola said she thought of Smyrnes as a son and described him saying, “He wasn’t a bad kid, he played with our grandchildren. He was fine.”
That’s why she said she was shocked when Smyrnes broke into her home when her family was on vacation in July 1997, and ransacked the place.
She said he broke glass and stole weapons. Damage to the car alone was more than $3,000. Jurors saw photos of the extensive damage.
Before testimony began, Judge Rita Hathaway told jurors they will first have to decide if Smyrnes is mentally retarded. The defense must show that by a “preponderance of evidence” in order to make Smyrnes ineligible for the death penalty. If Smyrnes is not found to be mentally retarded, the jury will have to weigh aggravating and mitigating factors to decide his sentence.
Prosecutors will be trying to convince the jury that there were two aggravators, torture and a significant history of felonies involving violence or a threat of violence.
Defense attorneys will be presenting evidence of mental illness as a mitigator.
The jury will have to weigh aggravators with mitigators when deciding Smyrnes sentence.
Stay with KDKA for the latest on this developing story.