Saturday, September 20, 2008

Expert: Michael Hernandez was psychotic before he killed classmate


BY LISA ARTHUR

A defense expert testified Friday that Michael Hernandez is a paranoid schizophrenic who was psychotic and out of touch with reality when he killed 14-year-old classmate Jaime Gough four years ago at Miami-Dade's Southwood Middle School.
Barry Rosenfeld, a forensic psychologist, arrived at his diagnosis after meeting with Hernandez for more than 20 hours over the past four years. He also reviewed psychological tests, sworn statements from Hernandez's parents and the disturbing journal found in Hernandez's backpack on Feb. 3, 2004, the day he killed Jaime.

The journal of the then-14-year-old shows a conflicted mind obsessed with killing, violence and reading the Bible.

''You will become a killer and mass murderer,'' reads one thought fragment in the journal, written in a schoolboy's scrawl.

``Have a cult and plan a mass kidnapping for new world.''

``Always give thanks and praise to God after killing.''

Rosenfeld said it was telling that the journal was written in the months before -- not after -- Hernandez's arrest.

''It's not like he created this three weeks later while sitting in jail because someone told him he needed an insanity defense,'' said Rosenfeld, a professor at Fordham University in Manhattan.

Hernandez's legal team has mounted an insanity defense and is trying to prove he was so mentally ill when he killed Jaime that he should not be held criminally responsible. Prosecutors dispute Hernandez is legally insane.

During her cross-examination of Rosenfeld, Miami-Dade prosecutor Carin Kahgan hammered away at the dispute at the crux of the trial: Even if Hernandez was mentally ill or had a personality disorder, that doesn't mean he meets Florida's legal definition of insane.

Kahgan said the evidence shows Hernandez knew what he was doing was wrong, and that he methodically plotted out Jaime's murder.

Rosenfeld said in his opinion Hernandez does meet Florida's insanity standard, and that the teen did not -- and still does not -- comprehend the consequences of his actions.

Kahgan shot back: ``He understood the consequences of his actions would be that his best friend would be dead, didn't he?''

''Yes,'' said Rosenfeld.

Rosenfeld testified that during the months before Jaime's killing, Hernandez began a slow, insidious decline into mental illness. The first perceptible symptoms apparently developed in summer 2003, when Hernandez's family noticed odd repetitive behaviors he would do each day at the same time.

They included staring into the face of a grandfather clock, opening the garage door a certain number of times and checking the items in the refrigerator. Hernandez also started an exercise regime of weight lifting, riding his bike and swimming that his parents found excessive.

He also kept to a strict schedule and punished himself if he did not keep it.

''He had to be in bed each night at 10:30 and if he hadn't fallen asleep by 10:40, he would punish himself by cutting himself twice,'' Rosenfeld said.

Hernandez's descent into mental illness picked up speed around Thanksgiving 2004, Rosenfeld said, when the teen decided that all of his odd behaviors meant that he was in training to be a serial killer.

Hernandez formulated a plan to kill Gough, another student and his sister that was outlined on the pages of his journal.

His ultimate plan was to kill everyone in the world by the time he was 30.

Hernandez, now 18, is charged with first-degree murder and faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison if convicted. The trial was moved to Orlando because too many prospective jurors in Miami-Dade said they already knew the details of the high-profile killing from news reports.

The trial continues Monday.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

he is sane and anyone else, it's time for these killers to stop using the excuse, he planned it and then lied about, he knew what he did. God save anyone that is close to him because he will do it again, His parents should be ashamed of themselves for trying to get this little puke out of jail, he deserves a needle in his arm. Shame on you FLorida.

Levi Lichy said...

Dude not everyone is sane he immediately when the psychologist saw him knew that he was sczophrenic he knew but he didn't know it's unfair to imprison someone who doesn't know what their actions cause he knew but he didn't