Attorneys dig into rhetoric at Engel’s appeal hearing |

Attorneys dig into rhetoric at Engel’s appeal hearing

SACRAMENTO – Jurors involved in the conviction of Fred Engel were not clearly instructed on the legal nuances of the case, attorney Donald Horgan argued at a hearing Monday, appealing Engel’s conviction in his high-profile murder attempt on a Nevada City woman.

The “significant legal difference” between knowing an act is wrong and understanding it’s wrong, was not explained to jury members, according to Horgan.

“The prosecutor argued that knowing and understanding were the same things” during Engel’s trial at the Nevada County Superior Court, Deputy Attorney General Robert Nash, representing the people, said.

Engel was sentenced to life in prison in October 2006 for stabbing Susan Wallace and slashing her throat, killing her dogs and burning down her Victorian home in Nevada City in May 2005.

The oral argument Monday took place at the Third District California Court of Appeal in Sacramento.

Horgan, who’s representing Engel, said Engel “didn’t understand (his actions were) wrong: He believed they were necessary.”

Horgan attributed Engel’s behavior to schizophrenia.

“I’d rather have people forget about Fred Engel and concentrate on what they can do to make their community a better place, by helping homeless animals and offering foster homes for dogs,” Wallace said, Monday.

“It’s likely there’ll be no subsequent hearings and the Court of Appeal will issue a written decision in the coming weeks or months,” Horgan said.

If the decision is not in Engel’s favor, his attorneys could ask for a re-hearing at the Court of Appeal, request the California Supreme Court to review the case, or do both, Horgan said.

To contact Soumitro Sen, e-mail or call 477-4229.

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