GREENSBURG (KDKA) – Jurors today heard testimony that Ricky Smyrnes is mentally handicapped.
The judge initially did not plan to allow this testimony, but after prosecutors played a taped confession in which Smyrnes told detectives he was influenced by Melvin Knight, defense attorney Mike Deriso convinced the judge to allow a duress defense.
The star witness for the defense was forensic psychologist Dr. Alice Applegate. She testified that Smyrnes is mildly mentally handicapped.
She says he is impaired in every domain and consistently scores in the second percentile of all test takers in those domains. She says that makes him unable to function as a normal adult.
She also testified that anyone with an IQ score between 50 and 75 can be mildly retarded.
Eight scores for Smyrnes were shown to the jury.
At age 26, Smyrnes had an IQ of 60. At age 25, he scored 79. Smyrnes was given three IQ tests at the age of 18 in which he scored two 75s and a 67.
He also has two tests on record from the age of 7 or 8 in which he scored 92 and 81.
The doctor also revealed that Smyrnes had a childhood filled with abuse. She says he was repeatedly raped by his father and uncle, he was sexually molested by his mother’s paramours and his mother was a prostitute who would sell him for sex in order to get money for drugs.
Defense attorney Deriso says it’s important for the jury to understand that Ricky Smyrnes was not the ringleader, but actually the opposite.
If Smyrnes is found guilty of first degree murder, the defense will likely recall Dr. Applegate to use mental retardation as a mitigator.
Prosecutors are expected to call a rebuttal witness first thing in the morning.
It’s not clear how long that will take, but the case could go to the jury by the end of the day Thursday or sometime on Friday.
Closing arguments were initially scheduled for this morning until the judge changed her ruling on the mental health testimony.