HomeNewsOpening statements given in Daniel Dougherty retrial

Opening statements given in Daniel Dougherty retrial

The retrial continues Thursday of Daniel Dougherty, twice convicted of setting a 1985 fire that killed his two young sons in their Oxford Circle home.

- Advertisement -

Opening statements were given on Wednesday in room 305 of the Criminal Justice Center.

A three-judge Superior Court panel in 2017 granted Dougherty another retrial.

Superior Court agreed with him that the prosecution should not have been allowed to show the jury a picture of the burned bodies; should not have been allowed to question an ex-girlfriend about his alleged violent acts when confronted about his drinking; and should not have been permitted at retrial to present a fire marshal’s testimony from the first trial, since he was unable to appear at the retrial.

Daniel Dougherty Jr., 4, and John Dougherty, 3, died in a fire at about 4 a.m. on Aug. 24, 1985 as they slept in a twin bed in their second-floor bedroom in a rowhome at 929½ Carver St.

At the time, Fire Mar­shal John Quinn labeled the blaze sus­pi­cious be­cause it star­ted in three places — the couch, loveseat and un­der the din­ing room table.

Dougherty, who spent time at the Ashburner Inn after attending an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting that night, was the only oth­er per­son home at the time. He was found stand­ing on the front porch by a 2nd Po­lice Dis­trict ser­geant and of­ficer who asked his name.

“My name is mud. I should die for what I did,” he allegedly replied.

However, there was not enough evid­ence to charge him with a crime.

In 1999, de­tect­ives from the po­lice spe­cial in­vest­ig­a­tions unit met with the fire mar­shal to dis­cuss un­solved ar­son cases. De­tect­ives re-in­ter­viewed wit­nesses, and the dis­trict at­tor­ney’s of­fice ap­proved charges.

Po­lice ar­res­ted Dougherty, who was liv­ing on the 3300 block of Coral St. in Port Rich­mond, and he went on tri­al in Oc­to­ber 2000.

Testi­mony in­cluded a form­al state­ment Dougherty gave an hour after the in­cid­ent. He told po­lice he was asleep on the liv­ing room couch be­fore awaken­ing at 4 a.m. when he saw the cur­tains on the front win­dow on fire. He un­suc­cess­fully tried to put out the fire with a neigh­bor’s garden hose, then tried to climb a lad­der to get to his chil­dren, but the flames pre­ven­ted him from reach­ing them.

Also, two jail­house in­form­ants test­i­fied that Dougherty told them he com­mit­ted the crime to get re­venge on his es­tranged wife, with whom he had quarreled in the hours lead­ing up to the fire.

Dougherty test­i­fied that he was in­no­cent, but a jury con­victed him of first-de­gree murder and arson and sen­tenced him to death by leth­al in­jec­tion.

In 2012, during the appeals process, the dis­trict at­tor­ney’s of­fice agreed to over­turn the death sen­tence, changing the sentence to life in prison.

In winning the initial retrial, Dougherty’s de­fense team ques­tioned the ef­fect­ive­ness of his tri­al law­yer, the now-de­ceased Thomas Q. Cic­cone Jr., for fail­ing to hire a fire in­vest­ig­a­tion ex­pert.

Common Pleas Court Judge J. Scott O’Keefe presided over the retrial, in March and April 2016.

Dougherty did not testify in the retrial.

Defense attorney David Fryman based his case on testimony by John Lentini, a nationally known fire investigator who said the fire could have been an accident.

Assistant District Attorney Jude Conroy went after Lentini in his closing statement, calling him a liar.

The jury convicted Dougherty of second-degree murder and arson.

Dougherty, 59, is now facing trial again in front of O’Keefe. The jury is made up of eight women and four men.

Fryman is back as his attorney. Assistant District Attorney Ashley Martin is handling the prosecution, with Anthony Voci, chief of the district attorney’s office homicide unit, by her side.

Before opening statements, the DA’s office offered Dougherty a deal. He could make an open plea to arson and two counts of third-degree murder.

“No. Never,” Dougherty answered when O’Keefe asked him if he would accept the deal, which could have made him immediately eligible for parole.

Dougherty asked O’Keefe to dismiss all charges, but the judge refused.

Back in 1985, Dougherty was living with his two sons, his girlfriend and her 8-year-old son. On the night of the fire, his girlfriend was working at a bingo hall. A babysitter was watching the Dougherty boys. The girlfriend found Dougherty drinking with another woman at the Ashburner.

“Get the f— home with your kids,” the girlfriend told Dougherty, according to Martin’s opening statement.

Dougherty eventually went home, and the house soon after was in flames.

“There’s nothing accidental about that fire,” Martin said.

Dougherty said he was asleep on the couch, then woke up to see the curtains on fire. Firefighters put out the blaze quickly, but the Dougherty boys were found in their bed.

Shirtless, Dougherty was taken to Northeast Detectives.

“Not a burn on his body,” Martin said, adding that he did not suffer smoke inhalation.

Fryman, joined at the defense table by fellow attorney Shannon Farmer, proclaimed his client innocent.

“Daniel Dougherty did not set that fire,” he said.

Fryman said there was no evidence of a flammable liquid or eyewitnesses to the start of the fire.

The burn patterns the prosecution plans to present would be the same in an accidental or intentional fire, Fryman said.

Fryman described Dougherty as shocked and disoriented at the sight of the fire, adding that he never said that his name was “mud” and he should die for what he did.

The defense attorney told the jury that his client was not arrested until 14 years after the fire. ••

broken clouds
24.7 ° C
26.3 °
22.7 °
37 %
75 %
26 °
26 °
24 °
27 °
30 °
- Advertisment -



Recent Articles

Picariello’s pix! Judge beats La Salle in PCL championship

David Picariello has been taking perfect shots all year. Exactly what you're looking for when it comes to sports. The Father Judge High School...