GREENSBURG (KDKA) — A jury in Westmoreland County has sentenced Melvin Knight to death for the torture and murder of Jennifer Daugherty eight years ago.
The jury spent about seven hours deliberating on Thursday, trying to decide Knight’s fate. He will now return to death row.
Knight’s original death sentence was overturned on appeal.
The testimony part of Knight’s re-sentencing trial began its last day with the jury of six men and six women listening to District Attorney John Peck appeal to the panel to return a death penalty verdict for Knight’s role in the 2010 torture killing of then 30-year-old Daugherty in Greensburg.
KDKA’s Ross Guidotti Reports:
In closing arguments, Peck attacked the defense’s argument that Knight is too mentally challenged to execution.
“Melvin Knight’s background was difficult, but people worked hard to make him a suitable member of society,” Peck said.
Peck went on to say Knight “got the best medication and treatment he needed” and “had no cognitive deficits.”
Peck finished by saying, “Melvin Knight helped kidnap, terrorize and kill Jennifer Daugherty … Return the proper verdict, which, in this case, is death.”
Knight’s defense attorney Tim Dawson followed with his summation.
“Critical day, it’s your last chance to talk to the jury, last chance to try to convince them that life is the best verdict,” he said.
Late in the afternoon, the jury asked to listen to Knight’s hour-long confession tape.
“We were happy to hear that because Melvin Knight showed some remorse in the confession. I think it helped us with the fact that Ricky Smyrnes was the leader of the pack and the Charles Manson in the scenario.”
The jury returned to deliberations to determine once again if Knight should live or die, and the verdict had to be unanimous.
“If there’s a deadlock, then it’s life. Actually, all we need is one juror. So if we get one juror showing mercy for Melvin Knight then it’s a life sentence,” Dawson said.
The jury deliberated for more than five hours on Thursday and asked two questions. Just before 6 p.m., they told Judge Rita Hathaway that they could not reach a verdict, but the judge sent them back into deliberations.