Saturday, November 8, 2008

Convicted Teen Killer Sentenced To Life Without Parole

MIAMI -- Michael Hernandez, a teenager convicted of murder in the killing of his classmate, Jaime Gough, has been sentenced to life in prison without parole plus an additional 30 years.

Hernandez, 18, faced a mandatory life sentence without parole as a result of his conviction on a first-degree murder charge. He also was sentenced to another 30 years in prison as a result of his conviction on an attempted murder charge.

In September, an Orlando jury unanimously agreed Hernandez was sane when he stabbed and slashed his friend to death inside a Southwood Middle School bathroom in 2004. The trial was moved to Orlando because too many potential jurors in Miami-Dade had already formed an opinion about the case.

Hernandez was sentenced Friday in a hearing in Miami-Dade County.

“Jaime trusted you and for that innocent trust Jaime would die, alone and frightened on that cold tile floor," said Judge John Schlesinger. “I will sentence you to life in prison for the murder of Jaime Gough.”

The harsh reality of the crime was revealed in Hernandez's punishment, but before he was locked up for life, Gough's family confronted his killer.

"Just look at you. You show no remorse. You took someone's life," said Jorge Gough, Jaime's father. "He was your friend, Michael. He was your friend.”

In a written statement read aloud by a representative, Jaime's mother, Maria Gough, offered forgiveness and asked Hernandez to repent.

"Though you showed no compassion for Jaime, we are asking Jesus to show you compassion and have mercy on you," the statement said.

The weight and finality of this moment was not lost on Hernandez's mother, Kathy Hernandez.

“As a mother, what do you say on the day that your son is going to be sentenced to die in prison?" Kathy Hernandez said.

Michael Hernandez did not speak on his own behalf and showed little emotion during the sentencing. His father, Manny Hernandez, plans on an appeal because he said his son was interrogated for 12 hours without his parents or an attorney present.

"I feel like I am the only father in the United States that has a child that has no rights whatsoever," Manny Hernandez said. "I’m sure if (Osama) bin Laden were to be caught today, you all would be talking to him but he would have an attorney talking for him.”

After Michael Hernandez’s parents apologized to the Gough family, they begged the judge to get him help for his mental illness.

The defense had unsuccessfully argued Hernandez should not be found guilty because he is insane, suffering from schizophrenia. Defense attorneys said Hernandez thought his calling in life was to become a serial killer.

Kathy Hernandez had one final plea at the sentencing hearing.

“I hope Michael will be able to be placed close to home so we will be able to visit him," she said.

During the trial, prosecutors described how 14-year-old Gough was lured into the bathroom by Hernandez and stabbed more than 40 times. Prosecutors convinced the jury the murder was premeditated.

Hernandez was convicted of first-degree murder and also attempted murder. The day before Gough was killed, prosecutors said, Hernandez tried to lure another friend into the bathroom but he refused to go.

Jaime Gough’s father called the September verdict “justice.”

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