BY FRED GRIMM
All murders aren't the same.
Michael Hernandez, 14 and delusional when he stabbed his classmate to death in 2004, was given a life sentence last week. No parole.
Three days earlier, in Broward circuit court, Lonnie Lauriston, 23 when he beat 4-year-old D'Hamonie Francois to death, was sentenced to three years in prison.
In Palm Beach County this summer, Charles Tyson, 22, managed a 40-year deal after tossing his 9-month-old son from a moving car, then throwing him into a canal.
Charles Tyson will get out of prison. Michael Hernandez won't.
Jordy Foster, 24, of Lauderdale Lakes, also could outlive his prison sentence. In September, he got 45 years for killing a 2-month-old.
Olivia Gonzalez-Mendoza left prison in May after serving 15 years of her 40-year sentence for the abuse and murder of the child Miami knew as Baby Lollipops.
A mentally ill child sentenced to life without parole makes a brutal contrast to so many Florida killers canny enough to cop a plea.
Next week, Angel Toro, 55, a one-time member of the notorious Macheteros terrorist group who took a deal, leaves prison after serving 24 years for killing a bouncer in a Miami strip club.
Moise Opont, 19, of Poinciana near Kissimmee, took the deal. Ten days before Michael Hernandez was given his life sentence, Opont, who had a juvenile record and was on a burglary spree when he raped and murdered a 99-year-old woman, copped to second-degree murder.
Under the conceit of the Florida justice system, Michael was considered competent enough to reject the advice of his lawyer and turn down a 40-year deal for the stabbing death of a classmate at Miami-Dade's Southwood Middle School. As if a disturbed teen was as able as any adult to weigh the consequences of such a decision.
Unlike Michael, all but one of the teenage killers of a homeless man in Fort Lauderdale in 2006 will have another chance on the outside.
It's plain, looking at other murder cases settled in Florida this year, that the quality of the victim influences the sentence.
In Sarasota, two thugs received sentences of 30 and 15 years in February for the rape and murder of a homeless woman.
In September in New Port Richey, Adam Jones, 25, cut a plea deal -- 25 years for the murder and robbery of a drug dealer. In Shalimar near Fort Walton Beach, the kidnapping, robbery and murder of a drug dealer came out to 20 years in a plea deal for a career criminal named Marcus ''Meatball'' Gray. In Jacksonville, Leo Toby got 35 years for robbing and killing a drug dealer. In Palm Beach County, a 16-year-old got 25 years for killing a 9-year-old in a drive-by shooting. But it was a lousy neighborhood.
Earlier this year, Alex King, just 12 when he and his brother were convicted of crushing their father's head with a baseball bat in 2002, was released from state prison. His brother Derek, a year older, gets out next year.
At the same time Michael was on trial in September, a Miami jury heard mob hit man John Martorano testify in the trial of an FBI agent gone bad. Martorano, who admits to 20 murders, had served 12 years.
Martorano also could testify that all murderers aren't treated equally. It helps to be a career criminal, old enough and wily enough and sane enough to take the deal. Everything Michael wasn't.