Daniel Dougherty found guilty of 2nd-degree murder, arson in 3rd trial

Steve Tawa
April 08, 2019 - 2:14 pm
Daniel Dougherty

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — After about seven hours of deliberations, the jury found 59-year-old Daniel Dougherty guilty of all charges, including two counts of second-degree murder and arson. 

In his third trial over the last 20 years, Dougherty was found guilty of setting a fire in his Oxford Circle home that killed his two young sons in 1985. Four-year-old Danny and 3-year-old Johnny died in the bed they shared. Dougherty wasn't arrested until 14 years later.

All three juries in this saga — in 2000, 2016 and the past two weeks — had to weigh evidence on exactly how and where the fire started. 

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When the jury was excused Monday afternoon, the defendant refused to appear at the defense table. While he was in the holding room adjacent to the courtroom with sheriff's deputies, Judge Scott O'Keefe left the bench and walked over to the door, basically yelling in.

He motioned to a sheriff's deputy to open the door and make sure Dougherty could hear him.

"Mr. Dougherty, what you did that night was despicable," O'Keefe told the defendant. "Just to get back at your girlfriend and your estranged wife, you burned your own two children to death." 

Before making their decision, the jury asked several on-point questions, ranging from reasonable doubt to how arson may affect second- or third-degree murder charges.

Defense lawyer David Fryman asked for a concurrent life sentence. Anthony Voci, chief of the district attorney's homicide unit, asked for consecutive life terms. 

Voci noted 36 jurors in total have convicted Dougherty in three separate trials. Two previous convictions were overturned.

O'Keefe ultimately imposed two life sentences for Dougherty, regarding the deaths of Danny and Johnny. He then turned to the sheriff's deputy and said, "He's yours." 

Ironically, the district attorney's office offered a third-degree murder plea arrangement before the trial began. Voci said at the time that Dougherty would be eligible for parole. Instead, he received two life prison terms.

A fire investigator confirmed in the original arson finding that it was set in three places: the sofa, loveseat, and under the dining room table. 

Fire science investigators hired by the defense countered that the cause should have been undetermined. Dougherty's team has cited full-room involvement. Everything burns in various intensities, they argued, even in accidental fires when one source starts it.