Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Trial For Teen Accused Of Killing Classmate Postponed

Judge Postpones Michael Hernandez's Murder Trial Until September

POSTED: 11:20 am EDT June 3, 2008
UPDATED: 6:19 pm EDT June 3, 2008

MIAMI -- A surprise announcement of a new defense witness has caused another delay in the trial of a teenager accused of killing his classmate in 2004.

Jury selection was already under way in the trial of 18-year-old Michael Hernandez, accused of fatally stabbing 14-year-old Jamie Gough more than 40 times in a second-floor bathroom at Southwood Middle School, when the judge postponed the trial until September.

On the seventh day of jury selection, Hernandez's lawyer told the court he named psychologist Vanessa Archer, an insanity expert, as a witness for the defense. Archer was one of two court-appointed psychologists who testified Hernandez is competent to stand trial, although she found evidence of mental illness.

Hernandez has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. He rejected a prosecution offer of a plea deal that would have sent him to prison for a minimum of 50 years in exchange for a guilty plea.

During last week's competency hearing, Archer testified Hernandez was delusional and said he planned to be a serial killer. Psychologists found evidence of schizophrenia and obsessive-compulsive disorder, yet she opined he is highly intelligent and able to meet the legal standard for competency, which mandates a defendant understand the legal process and understand the consequences of murder and punishment.

Judge John Schlesinger postponed the case until Sept. 8 to give state prosecutors time to depose Archer and vet her as a witness.

Prosecutors said Hernandez methodically plotted the killing, even putting Gough's name on a hit list.
Defense attorneys said they would argue in court that Hernandez was deeply affected by violent movies like "American Psycho."

In other developments Tuesday, Hernandez's attorney, Richard Rosenbaum, announced his plan to file a motion for change of venue Wednesday on the grounds that pre-trial publicity has tainted the Miami-Dade County jury pool.

The case remains under a gag order -- requested by the state and imposed by the judge last week -- forbidding lawyers and family members from speaking to the media until after the trial.

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