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4 jurors picked for torture killing trial

Jan. 14, 2013 at 9:30 PM

GREENSBURG, Pa., Jan. 14 (UPI) -- Jury selection began Monday for the trial of the alleged leader of the "Greensburg 6" who allegedly tortured and killed a mentally disabled Pennsylvania woman.

Four jurors were picked on the first day of the selection process for the trial of Ricky Smyrnes, 26, formerly of McKeesport, KDKA-TV, Pittsburgh reported. Efforts to seat a jury will resume Tuesday.

Opening statements are not expected until Feb. 4.

Smyrnes, who could be sentenced to death if found guilty, is the third of the six friends to stand trial in the 2010 stabbing death of Jennifer Daugherty, 30, of Mount Pleasant.

Daugherty's body was found Feb. 11, 2010, bound with Christmas lights and garland inside a plastic garbage bin under a truck left in a parking lot at Greensburg Salem Middle School. Authorities allege she was tortured for two days before she was killed.

Co-defendant Angela Marinucci was convicted of first-degree murder in May 2011 and sentenced to life in prison. Melvin Knight pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in April and was sentenced to death in August.

Amber Meidinger, Peggy Miller and Robert Masters have yet to be tried, and it's possible one or more could testify against Smyrnes, KDKA-TV said.

Smyrnes' jury is likely to hear his taped confession, the TV station said.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported Smyrnes' attorneys will argue his mental illness was a factor. Last fall, they tried to have their client, who had been found competent to stand trial, plead guilty but mentally ill to first-degree murder, which would have eliminated the possibility of a death sentence, the newspaper said.

Westmoreland County Judge Rita Hathaway ruled a jury should determine whether Smyrnes' mental illness should preclude him from being executed if convicted.

Hathaway requested 400 prospective jurors be available this week, the Tribune-Review said.

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