Defense says Sherman was ‘easy mark’ for others to take advantage

By: Jenifer Gee, Journal Staff Writer
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Donald Sherman “tragically” put himself in a place where he lost control, his attorney Kyle Knapp told a jury Friday. Over Labor Day weekend 2006, he lost control at his Penryn home and the result was the death of his cousin, Guy Farmer, Knapp outlined during his opening statements. Sherman is charged with first-degree murder, torture and poisoning in the Sept. 7, 2006 death of Farmer. He and Peter Daniel Schoemig, 32, of Reno, are on trial together for their alleged involvement in Farmer’s murder and two juries will separately decide each man’s fate. Over the weekend of Sept. 5, 2006, several men and women gathered at Sherman’s home. During the course of this weekend, several chemicals used to manufacture methamphetamine disappeared and prosecutors say Sherman interrogated Schoemig and Farmer about their whereabouts. When both men denied taking the chemicals, prosecutors say Sherman was the one to call three men referred to as “the torturers” or “the enforcers” to his home to “extract” information from Farmer. The men arrived and they and several others walked into Sherman’s garage where a group torture of Farmer took place, prosecutors and defense attorneys say. The men involved used hammers and a blowtorch and after several hours, Farmer confessed. The next day, Farmer freed himself. He barricaded himself in the garage and tried to hotwire a pickup truck as he was yelling that he was going to tell the police what happened. Sherman, Schoemig, and two other men, Brian Carr and Juan Figueroa, entered the garage and retied Farmer. Farmer was later poisoned by an intravenous overdose of Sherman’s prescription medications, prosecutors allege. Prosecutors also say that many of those tasks, including the order to dump Farmer’s body in an abandoned mine shaft outside of Reno, were under Sherman’s instructions. Knapp strongly disputed that accusation throughout his opening statements. “Donald Sherman did not intend to have his cousin tortured and killed,” Knapp said. “People on Donald Sherman’s property were looking out in their own self interest. They were not operating under the instructions of Donald Sherman.” Instead, Knapp described his client as an “easy mark” who was suffering from chronic back pain and was taking such high amounts of prescription narcotics that would “probably kill a normal person.” He said Sherman was the type of person who gave others shelter, money and, unfortunately, methamphetamine. Knapp said the defense will not contest that Sherman sold methamphetamine, but said there is “absolutely no evidence” that Sherman manufactured the drug. They will contest that Sherman called the torturers. That was instead the decision of another man named Michael “Bear” Dockins. Dockins brought the men to the home and when the incident took place in the garage, Sherman tried to leave, Knapp said. “When it went beyond slapping around, Donald Sherman tried to withdraw but he was threatened,” Knapp said. “He wanted no part of the hammers, or the torch.” Knapp said Dockins had Sherman’s 17-year-old son with him earlier and he threatened the rest of Sherman’s family, which included his wife, Gina, and their twin sons who were 3-years-old at the time. He said Sherman was there when Farmer freed himself after receiving frantic calls from his wife saying that Farmer had a gun. He was there when Farmer was retied but Knapp said Sherman stopped Schoemig and Figueroa when they went to punch and kick Farmer. He said Sherman was not on the property when Farmer was poisoned to death. Knapp said Sherman had always embraced his cousin despite prior fights or times when Farmer stolen from Sherman. “Donald Sherman saved Guy Farmer more times than not,” Knapp said. Knapp asked the jury to consider the legitimacy of several of the witnesses who will be called to testify during the trial. He asked them to consider plea deals made with Carr and Figueroa, who pleaded guilty to charges related to Farmer’s death. “Virtually every witness on this board has a motive or a bias to come in here and stretch the truth of what happened,” Knapp said while motioning to a display of photos of the men and women involved. Ultimately, Knapp said he believes evidence will lead the jury to believe that Sherman did not control the incidents surrounding Farmer’s death. “He’s painfully human,” Knapp said of his client. “It was not his desire, not his intention, not his actions that caused the torture and death of Mr. Farmer.” The Journal’s Jenifer Gee can be reached at ---------- Journal coverage The trial of the People vs. Donald Hugh Sherman and Peter Daniel Schoemig is scheduled to last until October. The Journal will cover opening statements, closing arguments and the jury’s verdict unless unexpected startling new evidence is uncovered.