Man convicted of killing Brooke Preston after claiming he was 'sleepwalking' seeks new trial

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A man convicted in 2019 of fatally stabbing his roommate after claiming he was sleepwalking is seeking to have his conviction vacated and for a judge to order a new trial, arguing that his attorneys did not provide a proper defense in advising him to plead insanity.

Randy Herman Jr. filed a motion with the 15th Judicial Circuit in November asking the court to vacate his 2019 first-degree murder conviction in the stabbing death of his roommate and childhood friend, 21-year-old Brooke Preston.

Circuit Judge Rosemarie Scher instructed the Palm Beach County State Attorney's Office to respond within 90 days.

Randy Herman, right, sits in court with his attorney Assistant Public Defender Joseph Walsh during jury selection on April 30, 2019. He was convicted of first-degree murder in the stabbing death of Brooke Preston and sentenced to life in prison. Herman is seeking to vacate the conviction on the grounds that he did not receive a proper defense.
Randy Herman, right, sits in court with his attorney Assistant Public Defender Joseph Walsh during jury selection on April 30, 2019. He was convicted of first-degree murder in the stabbing death of Brooke Preston and sentenced to life in prison. Herman is seeking to vacate the conviction on the grounds that he did not receive a proper defense.

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Randy Herman Jr. says his lawyers erred because sleepwalking not a mental illness

At trial, Herman and his lawyers argued that he was sleepwalking when he stabbed Preston more than 20 times in their suburban West Palm Beach residence on the morning of March 25, 2017. Herman, now 28, pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

He was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole. He is incarcerated at the Hardee Correctional Facility in Bowling Green, about 30 miles south of Lakeland.

The Fourth District Court of Appeal upheld the conviction in April, saying it did not find sufficient evidence to support Herman’s claim that the trial court erred in admitting the expert testimony of a state witness regarding sexually motivated homicide, and in denying his request for a special jury instruction.

Brooke Preston, a Pennsylvania native living in suburban West Palm Beach, was found stabbed to death at a home on Sarazen Drive on Saturday, March 25, 2017. Randy Allen Herman Jr., her childhood friend and housemate, was arrested on first-degree murder charges in her death. [Photo provided by Keeler Newspapers]
Brooke Preston, a Pennsylvania native living in suburban West Palm Beach, was found stabbed to death at a home on Sarazen Drive on Saturday, March 25, 2017. Randy Allen Herman Jr., her childhood friend and housemate, was arrested on first-degree murder charges in her death. [Photo provided by Keeler Newspapers]

In his new motion, Herman wrote among other allegations that his legal counsel erred in concluding that sleepwalking is a mental illness and in advising him to seek an insanity defense.

“Had counsel conducted an adequate investigation, he would have discovered that sleepwalking should have been raised under the legal defense of automatism,” wrote Herman, who was represented by the Palm Beach County Public Defender's Office during his trial.

Automatism describes bodily movements that are not consciously controlled like breathing or sleepwalking. Court documents show the motion was filed pro se, meaning that Herman is representing himself.

A message left with the Public Defender’s Office on Monday afternoon was not immediately returned.

Impossible to sleep through stabbing, witness for prosecutors testified

In the motion, Herman asked that the court vacate the conviction, grant a new trial or evidentiary hearing or grant “any other relief that the Court deems just and proper.”

The State Attorney’s Office argued at the trial that Herman’s actions were deliberate. Preston reportedly had moved out of the house and was planning to go back to Pennsylvania, where she and Herman grew up.

Jordan Preston, Brooke's sister, testified that she and Brooke had known Herman since they all were teenagers and had lived together for about six months in the home where Brooke was stabbed.

Jordan, who was not home when the attack occurred, said there was no romantic interest between Herman and either herself or her sister.

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Investigators said that on the day of the attack, Herman sent Brooke Preston a text message asking her to pick up a shirt before she left to give to a friend.

Randy Herman Jr.'s testimony in murder trial of Brooke Preston

Herman testified that he thought Preston had come back to the house that morning, picked up the shirt, hugged him goodbye and left as he went back to sleep. He told the jury that that next thing he remembered was standing over Preston while holding a knife and being covered in blood.

Herman called 911 and told a dispatcher that although he didn’t remember what happened, he believed he committed the act as no else was home. An expert witness for the state testified that it would have been impossible for Herman to sleep through stabbing Preston 20-plus times because it was too complicated an act.

Dr. Wade Myers, a forensic psychiatrist, suggest that the killing may have been sexually motivated, referencing an alleged incident from the night before that stabbing in which Herman hid in Preston’s closet naked after a day of drinking heavily.

In total, Herman's motion lists six grounds to vacate the conviction, including alleging that his defense team failed to consult with and present an expert witness in forensic sleep science and failed to call a witness who could have testified regarding his sleepwalking condition.

jwhigham@pbpost.com

@JuliusWhigham

This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: True crime: Sleepwalking murderer of Brooke Preston wants new trial