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Trial Nears End For Poker Player Charged With Killing Pleasanton Parents

OAKLAND (BCN) - The defense attorney for professional poker player Ernest Scherer III told jurors Wednesday that they should find him not guilty of charges that he murdered his parents at their Castlewood County Club home in Pleasanton three years ago.

"The district attorney has not proven that Mr. Scherer was at his parents' house when they were killed, and hasn't even proven a time of death," defense lawyer Richard Foxall said, in the third day of closing arguments in Scherer's lengthy trial in Alameda County Superior Court.

The decomposed bodies of Ernest Scherer Jr., 60, a real estate investor, and Charlene Abendroth, 57, an accounting lecturer who taught at California State University, East Bay, were found at their home on March 14, 2008. Prosecutor Michael Nieto has said he believes they were killed the night of March 7, 2008.

Nieto alleges that Scherer III, 32, killed his parents because he faced financial pressure from his gambling debts in Las Vegas and from the purchase of the $880,000 Brea home where he lived with his wife and their young son.

The prosecutor said Scherer also spent large sums of money on various girlfriends that he had around the country.

Nieto said Scherer needed a $616,000 loan from his parents, as well as a smaller loan from the home's previous owners, to be able to afford the house.

Foxall told jurors they shouldn't be swayed by prejudice against Scherer even though "you may not like his occupation or his social relationships."

"You must return a verdict of not guilty on all counts," he said, arguing that the prosecution hasn't proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Scherer was his parents' killer.

Nieto is now giving his rebuttal closing argument. Jurors will begin deliberating Scherer's fate either late Wednesday or Thursday morning.

After jurors left the courtroom to begin their lunch break, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Horner ordered Foxall to stop making faces and whispering to Scherer during Nieto's argument.

Referring to the famous mime, Horner said, "Only Marcel Marceau could do a better job of expressing to the jury your extreme displeasure at the prosecutor's statements. You simply cannot do that."

In a stern voice, Horner told Foxall, "I'm telling you to cut it out. It is improper and it should not continue."

Scherer is accused of two counts of murder and faces two special-circumstance allegations: multiple murder and murder for financial gain. In addition, he's charged with two use-of-a-deadly weapon clauses for allegedly using a sharp instrument to kill his parents.

He could face life in prison without the possibility of parole if he is convicted.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services may have contributed to this report.)

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