VENTURA — Convicted rapist Ronald Steven Herrera told jurors Friday that he is not mentally ill and has refused psychological treatment to protest the state's violent sexual predator law that has kept him in custody.
"I feel I can function on a normal basis without" treatment, he said.
Herrera, 53, formerly of Santa Paula, was one of the state's first parolees committed under the 1995 Sexually Violent Predator Law, which allows authorities to hold sex offenders in custody for two-year stretches at mental hospitals if they meet certain criteria.
Under the law, sexual predators are defined as those criminals with mental health disorders and repeated sex crime convictions who are likely to attack again.
In 1996, a Ventura County jury deemed Herrera a sexual predator in the county's first such case. Now, the same issue is before a second jury in Superior Court Judge James P. Cloninger's courtroom.
Herrera was convicted in December 1971 of raping a woman and her 15-year-old daughter during a Ventura home invasion robbery three months earlier. A jury found that he and a second suspect terrorized three families vacationing at a beach cottage.
Less than a week after he was found guilty, Herrera and three other inmates escaped from the old Oxnard jail. Herrera fled to Virginia, where he was later convicted in a series of armed robberies and attempted murder. He served 13 years of a 50-year sentence before returning to Ventura County.
In 1986, he was arrested on a traffic violation. When authorities realized he had never served time for the prior rape conviction, Herrera was sent to prison.