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Dubbed the "Speed Freak" serial killers because of the methamphetamine-fueled crime spree that childhood best friends Loren Herzog and Wesley Shermantine engaged in for almost fifteen years, the two men are now on very different paths. Both men were initially convicted of several first degree murder counts. Shermantine currently sits on death row, while Herzog is set to be released and paroled later this week.
CBS News reports on Herzog's release:
"Herzog was sentenced to 78 years in prison on three first-degree murder convictions, but in 2004 the California Court of Appeal ruled that Herzog's detailed statements that amounted to a confession were illegally coerced. Without the videotaped confession from his 1999 arrest, prosecutors were left with very little evidence against Herzog and were forced to offer him a deal to plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter."
44 year-old Loren Herzog will be relocated from Norco prison in Riverside, California to Lassen County. In addition to a string of victorious appeals, Herzog's release is primarily the result of a coerced confession. In interrogating a suspect, it is illegal for police to compel a confession, and when this happens, the confession cannot be used against the individual. The rationale behind excluding illegal confessions is simple -- it is against an individual's constitutional rights.
The effects of excluding a confession can be devastating to a case, and the Herzog confession is no exclusion. There is nothing more compelling that a defendant's confession to a crime, and this admission can often override contrary evidence in a case. For Loren Herzog, there simply was not enough evidence aside from the coerced confession to maintain all of the charges against him. The San Joaquin County District Attorney hopes that news of the release of the "Speed Freak" serial killer will inspire witnesses who have information to come forward, and help connect Herzog to some of the unsolved murders the two men are suspected of committing during their rampage.
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