Thursday, September 18, 2008

Michael Hernandez jury watches emotionless confession


The videotape shows then-14-year-old Michael Hernandez telling a Metro-Dade detective how he slit the throat of a classmate in a bathroom at Southwood Middle School four years ago. His voice is flat and emotionless and he shows no sign of nerves. His answers are methodical and clinical as he describes how he lured Jaime Gough into a bathroom stall.

'I told him, `I have to put my hand over your mouth,' '' Hernandez told Detective Salvatore Garafalo just hours after Jaime's death. ``And I did. And I lifted his neck up. . . . I slit his throat.''

Jurors in an Orlando courtroom followed along Monday, reading a transcript as they watched the black-and-white confession video on small monitors in front of each of their chairs in the jury box.

The case was moved to Orlando after too many prospective jurors in Miami said they already knew the story of Jaime's death just before homeroom on Feb. 3, 2004.

Several jurors shook their heads and grimaced as Hernandez told Garafalo how Jaime begged for his life after the initial slash across his neck, which wasn't fatal.

''He asked me not to kill him,'' Hernandez said. ``I told him OK, if he cooperates. That was a lie.''

During a break in the questioning while a court reporter in the interrogation room changed her transcription tape, Hernandez asked Garafalo how police had zeroed in on him as a suspect.

''The glove that you found, is that what caused me to come down here?'' Hernandez asked about a bloody latex glove he had taken off after stabbing Jaime.

Hernandez sat at the defense table watching the confession on a monitor, shaking his leg as he followed along with the transcript.

Hernandez, now 18, is charged with first-degree murder and faces life in prison. His legal team has mounted an insanity defense.

Jaime's parents, Jorge and Maria Gough, took deep breaths and held each other as they listened to Hernandez's matter-of-fact description of their son's gruesome death. They have heard the confession at least once before, during a hearing last year when the defense tried to have it tossed. Circuit Judge John Schlesinger ruled then that the jury could hear the confession.

Hernandez was taken out of class and questioned by police shortly after Jaime's body was found. They first talked with him in a school office, then took him to the department's homicide bureau.

Hernandez's parents have complained that he was taken from the school without their knowledge.

Police called Manny Hernandez later that afternoon. When the couple arrived at the police department, they say they were told that Hernandez was a witness to Jaime's death but not that he was a suspect.

They were allowed to meet with their son briefly but told not to ask him what happened. Without knowing he might be charged with murder, Manny Hernandez urged his son to cooperate with police and tell them the truth.

Now, he's angry that police questioned his son for hours.

''He should have had one or both of us there,'' Manny Hernandez said during an interview with The Miami Herald in April. ``A child is not in a position to waive their rights, a mentally ill child.''

Richard Rosenbaum, lead attorney for Hernandez, tried to get the confession thrown out, making that very argument. His effort failed.


Anonymous said...

mentally ill people do not plan out murders, do not come prepared to a situation with the materials in hand to kill and be able to go back to class and not have anyone notice that they have murdered someone. also, if the parents would have known that they son was a suspect, would they have then told him not to cooperate, would they have had him lie, just because it was their son. he is a cold blooded psychopath that needs to take what he has coming to him.

Anonymous said...

I agree that he needed to be put away where he could get help. However, the law is the law. He was under eighteen at the time and the law says that if a minor is being questioned, they're to have a parent present. The MDPD, thought they were doing a public service by getting him off the streets, played fast and loose with the law because they knew in their hearts that he was guilty. They're just lucky that his attorney wasn't able to get the confession thrown out. Anywhere else, it would have gotten thrown out and then Michael Hernandez would be out in the world still (though maybe not since he's a deviant sociopath).