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Jurors begin deliberating Santa Rosa killer's sanity

After its medical expert landed in the minority over whether 22-year-old Houston Herczog was insane at the time he stabbed his father at least 60 times, killing him, the prosecution on Monday changed course, urging jurors to disregard doctors and rely instead on their own observations in determining the Santa Rosa man's mental state.

Prosecutor Bob Waner suggested the experts — including one paid for by the District Attorney's Office — were not infallible and told the jurors they were best-suited to make a finding.

"What's it look like to kill your father?" Waner said in his closing argument. "I don't know. Neither do these doctors."

But Herczog's lawyer, Karen Silver, countered it would be unreasonable to overlook the opinions of three out of four psychiatrists who determined Herczog suffered paranoid schizophrenia in the 2011 slaying.

She repeated her attack on the prosecution's expert, Dr. James Missett, suggesting the holdout was either mistaken, incompetent or lying in concluding Herczog was not impaired.

"There's no way I would think I have better judgment that these three doctors," Silver said. "This was a psychotic killing."

The comments came at the end of the second phase of Herczog's trial in which they are to determine if he was insane when he stabbed to death Mark Herczog, 63, in the kitchen of their Rincon Valley home. Herczog was found guilty of first-degree murder in the earlier guilt phase.

Now, jurors must determine if he was suffering a mental disorder that affected his ability to understand the nature of his acts or his ability to judge right from wrong. He could be found not guilty by reason of insanity and sent to a mental hospital.

If the panel decides he killed his father in a drug-induced rage but was otherwise sane, he'll go to prison for the rest of his life.

The two sides have been jousting over the sanity issue since testimony in the guilt phase began three weeks ago.


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