Michael Hernandez Found Guilty Of First-Degree Murder
Updated On: Sep 25 2008 09:01:37 AM EDT
"The defendant is guilty of first-degree murder as charged," read the verdict against Michael Hernandez.
As his fate was read to the court, Hernandez remained motionless.
A few rows back, his mother choked back tears after hearing the verdict that her son had been found guilty of first-degree murder in the fatal stabbing of Jaime Gough.
Prosecutors convinced an Orlando jury that Hernandez was of sound mind when he meticulously planned out and murdered Gough in a bathroom stall at Southwood Middle School in Miami in February 2004.
"It's horrible what he did to my son," the victim's mother said.
Gough's parents walked out of the courthouse Wednesday night, relieved at the guilty verdict, but in obvious pain after sitting through the entire trial while listening to graphic and detailed testimony on how their son died.
"I thank God for the strength because this is something that is very consuming and I'm still here standing," Gough's father said. "Unfortunately, it's now a tragedy for two families."
The jury deliberated for about 3 ½ hours Wednesday before deciding on the verdict in the trial. Hernandez was also found guilty of attempted murder of another classmate, Andre Martin.
During closing arguments on Wednesday, jurors were graphically reminded of the violent killing and how Hernandez, now 18, carried out the crime.
"Each one of you will soon be called upon to determine whether that confessed murderer will be held accountable for his actions for each of those gashes to Jaime's throat," prosecutor Carin Kahgan told the jury.
Prosecutors were fighting for a guilty verdict on a charge of first-degree murder, but Hernandez's attorneys wanted a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity.
Defense attorney Richard Rosenbaum tried to prove his client suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and did so back when he killed Gough. He believes Hernandez needs professional mental care, not a prison sentence.
"How do we make sense out of this horrible tragedy? There's only one explanation: It's insanity. And insanity is exactly what the evidence shows in this case," Hernandez's defense attorney said during closing arguments.
After the verdict was read, he expressed his client's disappointment with the outcome.
"I know that Michael is extremely disappointed with what's going on. From the very beginning we've done our best to try to get Michael help -- to get him treatment -- not just punishment. Unfortunately with mandatory life, all that he can get is punishment," Rosenbaum said.
"This was a true verdict based on the law and the evidence- it was very clear to the jury-- they had no problem renderin the verdict - it was a good verdict," said prosecutor Kathleen Hogue.
None of the 6 men and 6 women who rendered the verdict spoke publicly about their decision. They walked past cameras as Hernandez's parents left court for the last time.
Jaime's father said he has already forgiven the teen who took his son's life.
"I couldn't be standing here if I did not forgive. I think we all make stupid mistakes in life. It doesn't mean he doesn't have to pay for what he did. I forgave him and I forgave his parents too," he said.
Because Hernandez was found guilty of first-degree murder, he could spend the rest of his life in prison.
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