Man Who Killed Pitt Student Alina Sheykhet To Get Hearing On Former Lawyer Effectiveness – WPXI

PITTSBURGH – A man who pleaded guilty to killing a University of Pittsburgh student to avoid a possible death penalty will be heard in an attempt to prove his lawyer was ineffective.

According to our partners at, the state Superior Court ruled on Monday in favor of Matthew Darby, who pleaded guilty to first degree murder on Oct. 17, 2018, for the stabbing death of 20-year-old Alina Sheykhet. In return for his plea, Darby, now 25 and formerly of Hempfield, was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Sheykhet, a 2015 graduate of Montour High School, was found by her parents on the morning of October 8, 2017, in the bedroom of her Cable Place apartment in Oakland.

Darby, who had previously dated Sheykhet, had broken into his apartment two weeks earlier and had obtained an Abuse Protection Order against him.

However, early on October 8, 2017, Darby broke in again and killed Sheykhet, police said. Investigators, using surveillance video of the area, recovered a hammer and two knives used in the attack in a sewer near the apartment.

Prosecutors said they would seek the death penalty against Darby, claiming four necessary aggravating factors, including that he was the subject of an ATP brought by the victim, that she was a prosecution witness against him and that ‘he had a history of violent felony convictions. or the threat of violence.

Darby agreed to plead guilty to first degree murder, carrying a mandatory life sentence, in exchange for removing the possibility of a death penalty.

However, a year later and with new counsel, Joseph Hudak, Darby filed a post-sentencing petition alleging ineffective counseling assistance.

In his documents, Darby said his then lawyer Thomas N. Farrell failed to explain or do a proper risk analysis on the case.

In its response, the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office said Darby’s claims would not be successful, but acknowledged that a hearing on the matter may be required.

The ruling is not based on any potential merit for Darby’s claim, but rather on a precedent known as the “coordinated jurisdiction rule”, which provides that judges in the same jurisdiction are not to rely on each other. others.

In the Darby case, the original judge assigned to the case was Judge Jeffrey A. Manning.

In June 2020, he ordered a hearing into Darby’s claims. However, the case was reassigned to Judge Edward J. Borkowski after Manning went on sick leave.

Borkowski issued an order in February 2021 dismissing Darby’s petition without a hearing.

On appeal, the state Superior Court said Borkowski was required to hold the hearing ordered by Manning.

Mike Manko, spokesperson for the prosecutor’s office, said his office would not appeal the ruling.

“This defendant has pleaded guilty to a brutal crime which he has clearly committed, and we are confident in our position pending the hearing,” he said.

Hudak disagreed.

“This is the first step towards lifting Darby’s life sentence,” he said. “I think Darby has been totally misrepresented, and I think Darby is guilty at most of third degree murder. And a jury could find him guilty of intentional manslaughter. “

Hudak said Darby’s attorney should not have brought him into a first degree murder plea.

“I don’t believe the evidence ever supported a verdict of the death penalty,” Hudak said. “And there was so much mitigation, I don’t think he would have received the death penalty anyway.”

Robert DelGreco, a lawyer who represents the Sheykhet family, noted that the Superior Court’s opinion does not rule on the merits of Darby’s claims about ineffective legal assistance.

“The Sheykhet family believe that Mr. Darby’s claim is groundless and expect his guilty plea to remain intact, as well as his life sentence,” DelGreco said.

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Sara H. Byrd