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It was a case with an unusual defense and one that ultimately the jury didn’t buy.
The defense team for Randy Herman Jr. tried to argue during his murder trial that he was sleepwalking when he brutally stabbed his roommate and childhood friend 21-year-old Brooke Preston to death inside their Florida home in 2017.
He had a long history of sleepwalking which dated back to childhood. Herman, who had a habit of self-medicating with alcohol and had previously been convicted of two DUIs, had been on a drinking binge in the days before the stabbing, the Miami New Times reported in 2019. He estimated that he drank around 30 beers during one of the last days he spent with Preston, who was gearing up to leave and move in with her boyfriend. That and his frequent lack of decent sleep were brought up as contributing factors that the defense said caused him to sleepwalk.
During his trial, Herman pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, with sleepwalking being the psychological affliction. His defense called Dr. Charles Patrick Ewing, a forensic psychologist, to the stand who testified that it usually takes some time to fall into a deep sleep, the kind of sleep that sleepwalking is believed to occur during. However, he also testified that it’s possible for someone to fall into a deep sleep immediately, especially when drinking and sleep deprivation are involved.
Herman had claimed that he had spoken to Preston just minutes before killing her. He testified that he remembers waking up in his bed to Preston coming into his room to talk about a shirt he was giving her. Just minutes later, he remembered stabbing Preston to death but believed he was dreaming, according to him. The new Hulu documentary “Dead Asleep” notes the theory that the memory of him being awake just minutes before the slaying could have been a dream or an imagined memory.
Still, it was that specific memory that jurors pointed to as the reason for why they ultimately convicted Herman in 2019.
“The way that the jurors explained it to me was when they put the timeline together they felt that he couldn’t have returned back to a deep sleep,” “Dead Asleep” director Skye Borgman told Oxygen.com in an interview earlier this month. “Circumstances including prior behavior, alcohol use, his sleep patterns, I think he [Ewing] said it’s possible that he could have [been sleepwalking and in a deep sleep] but also possible that he could not have returned back to sleep.”
She said that ultimately jurors determined that the timeline the way that they saw it, if he didn’t imagine that interaction with Brooke, then he would not have been able to have returned to a deep sleep state.
The timeline was such a big motivating factor for them in seeing how this sequence of events played out,” she said. “They felt more convinced that he wasn’t sleepwalking at the time.”
Heman, now 28, was sentenced to life behind bars. Last month, Herman filed a motion to try to get his conviction vacated. He wants a new trial and argues that his defense was wrong to claim that sleepwalking was a mental illness, the Palm Beach Post reported.
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