Jury deliberates on Helzer's sanity

Panel must decide if convicted murderer was unable to discern moral wrong

Tri-Valley Herald/July 15, 2004

Martinez -- A jury began deliberating the matter of convicted murderer Justin Helzer's sanity Wednesday morning. The panel of 10 women and two men must decide whether Helzer, 32, was unable to discern the moral wrong in the summer 2000 slayings of five people.

The defense has argued Helzer was delusional, believing his older brother Glenn, 34, was a prophet of God and that the killings were sanctioned by God in a struggle against evil.

Justin Helzer, who pleaded innocent by reason of insanity, was found guilty on June 16 on multiple counts of first-degree murder in the deaths an elderly Concord couple, a Marin County woman, her mother and the mother's companion.

If the jury decides Helzer is legally insane, he likely will be hospitalized.

Should they find him sane, the trial will enter a punitive phase in which Helzer could face the death penalty.

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