Updated:GREENSBURG, Pa. —
A judge refused to accept a guilty, but mentally ill plea from a man who is set to go to trial in the torture and slaying of a mentally disabled Greensburg woman.
Ricky Smyrnes is set to go to trial for the death of Jennifer Daughter in February.
Smyrnes is charged with torturing and killing 30-year-old Daugherty in February 2010.
“He has a problem communicating and he’s mentally retarded. He’s mentally ill and can’t concentrate or focus on what you’re discussing. He can’t discuss strategy and he can’t even discuss his defense. He has a right to participate in his defense,” defense attorney Terrance Faye said.
Judge Hathaway refused to accept Smyrnes’ guilty, but mentally ill plea because she said it doesn’t apply in a capital murder case like this.
“The United States Supreme Court in Virginia v. Atkins states that they can’t execute a mentally retarded individual and lays out criteria for what mental retardation is,” defense attorney Michael DeRiso said.
DeRiso said he and Faye have to convince a jury that Smyrnes is, by the legal definition, mentally retarded.
Prosecutors say Smyrnes and five others tortured Daugherty for more than two days before killing her and stuffing her body into a trash container they dumped at a middle school in Greensburg. The garbage container with her body was found wedged under a truck parked in the middle school parking lot during a snowstorm.
Earlier this year Melvin Knight was convicted and sentenced to death in the case. Last year, Angela Marinucci was sentenced to life in prison for her involvement in Daugherty's death. Marinucci could not face the death penalty because she was 17 at the time of the killing.
Amber Meidinger still has yet to go to trial and could face the death penalty if convicted.
Peggy Miller and Robert Masters are also facing charges in the case.