Defense: Client acted under ‘duress’ in torture case

Schoemig’s life in immediate danger if he didn’t comply with threats, attorney says
By: Jenifer Gee Journal Staff Writer
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ROSEVILLE - What would a reasonable person do if they were told they would be tortured if they didn’t follow commands? That is among the questions defense attorney Richard Corbin posed to his client’s jury during his opening statements Tuesday morning. Corbin is representing Peter Daniel Schoemig, 32, of Reno, in a double-murder trial that involves the torture, poisoning and death of fellow Reno resident Guy Farmer. Farmer was allegedly murdered at 44-year-old Penryn resident Donald Hugh Sherman’s compound over Labor Day weekend 2006. Sherman is also charged with murdering Farmer, his cousin. Opening statements for Sherman’s case are scheduled to begin Thursday before a separate jury. Schoemig has denied charges against him, including first-degree murder and torture. Prosecutors allege Schoemig was one of the key participants in the torture and poisoning of Farmer. Farmer reportedly was killed over the Labor Day weekend while he, Schoemig, Sherman and a variety of other men and women were at Sherman’s house. Prosecutors said say Sherman sold drugs for a living and Corbin added that it appeared he was launching a counterfeit moneymaking operation to his business. Over that weekend in 2006, when Sherman noticed that several of the chemicals he used to make methamphetamine were missing, he “interrogated” Schoemig and Farmer, Corbin said. Sherman stuck the barrel of a 9mm handgun down Farmer’s throat and told him to confess or he’d have to call in somebody who would make him, Corbin said. Ultimately, the blame centered on Farmer. Three men referred to as both “the enforcers” and “the torturers” were called to the Penryn home where they reportedly “extracted” information from Farmer by hitting him in the knees and chest with hammers and heating his feet and groin area with a blow torch. During this time, Schoemig was in the garage watching the torture take place, Corbin said. His client was hit in the face with pliers by one of the torturers named “Jake,” who also demanded that Schoemig write down his address where his daughter and her mother lived and the address of his parents. Schoemig’s parents were seated behind their son in court Tuesday. “The enforcers told Mr. Schoemig, ‘Do what we tell you or you’re going to get the same,’” Corbin said. Schoemig complied with the orders, Corbin said, and retrieved the ropes and straps used to tie Farmer. He also injected Farmer three times with methamphetamine to keep him awake at the request of the torturers, Corbin said. When Farmer temporarily freed himself the next day, Schoemig retied him after Sherman ordered him to while waiving around a 9mm handgun, Corbin said. Corbin added that one witnesses is expected to testify that one of Sherman’s close friends was also holding a rifle to Schoemig as he tied Farmer. Prosecutors allege that Schoemig and Sherman both worked to poison Farmer to death. However, Corbin said that during Schoemig’s many interviews with detectives, his client has consistently insisted on one thing: he did not poison Farmer. Schoemig followed Sherman’s orders to load Farmer’s body in the back of his pickup truck and dispose of his body in an abandoned mineshaft outside of Reno, Corbin said. Finally, he returned to Sherman’s compound as commanded and began to clean up any evidence of the murder, Corbin said. On Tuesday, Corbin explained why he will ask jury members at the conclusion of the trial to find Schoemig not guilty of his involvement in the murder. Corbin outlined his case and said he believes evidence will show that Schoemig acted under duress and said he will present a “dozen or so” factors to show duress and about half-a-dozen to show that Schoemig was threatened by the torturers and Sherman. In a brief description, Corbin described that a defendant was acting under duress if, because of some threat or menace, he believed his life would be in immediate danger. Corbin explained that if the jury decides the Schoemig was under duress, then he is not guilty of the crime of torture and therefore not guilty of murder. He further implored the jury to keep an open mind throughout the presentation of the case. “It’s an immense responsibility,” Corbin said. “I believe when you hear all the evidence, you’ll agree that Mr. Schoemig acted under duress and menace.” The Journal's Jenifer Gee can be reached at ---------- Prosecution recap Prosecutors said in their opening statements Monday for Peter Daniel Schoemig’s trial that they believe the 32-year-old man killed Guy Farmer during a Labor Day weekend 2006 group torture. Dave Tellman, senior Deputy District Attorney, said Schoemig helped make the decision to poison Farmer and lied to authorities on several occasions to try to cover up his guilt. To read the full story on the prosecution’s opening statements, see “Trial begins in case of torture, murder and drugs." ---------- 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. ----------