Convicted Greensburg killer's intelligence could determine penalty

Updated:

GREENSBURG, Pa. - A Westmoreland County jury heard conflicting testimony Tuesday about the intelligence level of Ricky Smyrnes.

Scores on IQ tests might determine whether Smyrnes will get the death penalty or be sentenced in life or prison.

District Attorney John Peck is seeking capital punishment for Smyrnes, 26, in the February 2010 torture murder of Jennifer Daugherty, 30, a mentally challenged woman from Mt. Pleasant. Peck contends Smyrnes was the catalyst who incited his five roommates in a Greensburg apartment to torture Daugherty for more that two days before she was fatally stabbed in the heart.

Dr. Bruce Wright, the chairman of the psychology department at St. Clair Hospital in Mount Lebanon, testified that Smyrnes' IQ scores, recorded before his 18th birthday, indicate he did not qualify as mentally retarded.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that mentally retarded defendants cannot be put to death.

“His claim that he was mentally retarded first appeared after he was incarcerated for this event,” Wright told jurors.

Wright testified that Smyrnes' IQ scores of 82, 81 and 75, which were all recorded before his 18th birthday, refutes defense claims that Smyrnes is mentally retarded.

Wright said mental health evaluations of Smyrnes, conducted when he was between the ages of 4 and 19 at various treatment facilities and schools, never identified him as mentally retarded.

Wright was called to rebut testimony from a defense expert, Dr. Alice Applegate, a forensic psychologist with a private practice in Allison Park. She testified that Smyrnes is “mildly mentally retarded” and suffers from multiple personality disorder, post traumatic stress disorder and other mental illnesses.

She testified Tuesday morning that Smyrnes' IQ tests, taken after he was 18, are a more valid measure of his abilities. Smyrnes scored as low as 60 on an IQ test last year, according to Applegate.

Wright will return to the witness stand this afternoon in the penalty trial before Judge Rita Hathaway. The jury is the same panel that earlier this month convicted Smyrnes of first-degree murder and kidnapping for Daugherty's slaying.

 

This article was written by Channel 11’s news exchange partners at TribLIVE.