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Smyrnes' Lawyers Fight Against Death Penalty

PITTSBURG (KDKA) – Lawyers for Ricky Smyrnes went to work Monday to save his life.

Smyrnes was convicted in the murder of Jennifer Daugherty and is facing the possibility of execution.

Prosecutors called one final witness Monday before resting their case.

Now the defense is trying to convince jurors that Smyrnes is mentally disabled which would make him ineligible for the death penalty.

Smyrnes had a horrible childhood, filled with chronic terror, physical and sexual abuse, as well as neglect. That was the testimony of psychologist Alice Applegate on behalf of the defense.

"The brain is a biological historian," Applegate said. "And when a child goes through those kinds of experiences, they don't develop in a normal or a full way."

She says Smyrnes was diagnosed at age 4 with a complex delusional system, meaning he was out of touch with reality and what was going on.

He was also diagnosed with learned helplessness, which is described as, "a condition where someone exposed to stressors can't escape and learns to be helpless when they know the stressor is coming."

Applegate also says Smyrnes is mildly mentally retarded, which is determined by him mimicking people's actions and sexual misconduct.

"As smart as being able to handle adult, independent living, there was no way that this was ever going to happen for Ricky," Applegate said.

Prosecutors are hoping the same jury that convicted Smyrnes of murdering Daugherty will sentence him to death.

They're relying on medical examiner Dr. Cyril Wecht who testified that Daugherty was tortured and suffered greatly.

"There would have been a great deal of pain," Wecht said. "And there's nobody here, or anybody watching me speak, who has not cut themselves or bumped themselves and remember what it felt like. Can you imagine having multiple cutting wounds?"

It's not clear how many witnesses the defense plans to call, but it is expected that Smyrnes' mother will testify.

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