Pennsylvania v. Knight (majority)Annotate this Case
Melvin Knight appealed the death sentence he received for his role in the 2010 torture and murder of Jennifer Daugherty (“the Victim”), a 30–year-old intellectually disabled woman. On direct appeal, Appellant raised fourteen issues for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s review, including a challenge to the jury’s failure to find as a mitigating circumstance Appellant’s lack of a significant history of prior criminal convictions. In addressing this claim, the Court observed that it was undisputed that Appellant had no prior felony or misdemeanor convictions, a fact to which the prosecutor conceded during closing argument. The Supreme Court largely rejected Appellant's contentions of error, finding that Appellant’s sentence of death was not the product of passion, prejudice, or any other arbitrary factor, but, rather, was fully supported by the evidence that Appellant and his co-defendants held the intellectually-disabled victim against her will for several days, during which time they continuously subjected her to myriad forms of physical and emotional torture, eventually stabbing her in the chest, slicing her throat, strangling her, and stuffing her body into a trash can which they left outside under a truck. As the jury found that the aggravating circumstances outweighed the mitigating circumstances, the Court found Appellant’s sentence complied with the statutory mandate for the imposition of a sentence of death.