Middle school killer again sentenced to life in prison

AP News
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Posted: Feb 22, 2016 3:16 PM

MIAMI (AP) — A judge sentenced a Florida man to life in prison for a second time Monday for fatally stabbing his best friend when both were 14, saying the man still seems to be obsessed with violence, death and serial killers.

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge John Schlesinger imposed the maximum possible prison term on Michael Hernandez, now 26, who had sought a lesser sentence for killing Jaime Gough in 2004 in a bathroom at Southwood Middle School. Hernandez's original life sentence had to be reconsidered after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that juveniles could not automatically be sentenced to life without chance of parole.

Schlesinger said a three-day hearing earlier this month featuring hundreds of Hernandez's jail phone calls convinced him that Hernandez hadn't changed since the slaying. In his conversations, the inmate spoke a great deal about serial killers including Jeffrey Dahmer; mass shootings such as the Columbine High School killings in Colorado; and violent death-metal music about slayings and mayhem.

"I did not anticipate that there was going to be talk about rainbows and unicorns and puppies. But what I received is truly grotesque," Schlesinger said. "He says on those phone calls he can't understand why so many mass killers kill themselves before they can enjoy what he calls the glory and the fun."

Hernandez, the judge added, "is essentially the same kind of person he was in 2004."

"He has no real insight or empathy for the victims of these crimes."

Hernandez, dressed in a red prison jumpsuit and handcuffed at the wrists, showed no reaction. The family of the slain boy called it a just decision and said Hernandez would be dangerous if released.

"I don't think we want someone like Michael Hernandez as our neighbor," said Jorge Gough, father of victim Jaime Gough. "There is finally justice for my son."

Hernandez's parents left the courthouse without commenting to reporters.

Hernandez, accused of stabbing his friend more than 40 times following weeks of planning, was originally convicted of first-degree murder in 2008 after he unsuccessfully used the insanity defense. Evidence during the trial showed that he kept a journal detailing his fascination with serial killers and featuring a list of people he wanted to kill, including Gough and his own sister.

Hernandez, who testified at the recent hearing, insisted his mental state is improved and he apologized during a recent hearing to the Gough family. A psychologist hired by his lawyers said Hernandez appeared to be in remission from bipolar disorder and possibly schizophrenia.

"I feel horrible about what I did," Hernandez testified, at times wiping away tears.

Prosecutor Gail Levine accused Hernandez of putting on an act in court to win his freedom. She noted that in some of his jail calls he said he had to try to make himself cry.

"That's who he is. It's a shame but that's who he is," Levine said.

Hernandez will be eligible for parole review in about 13 years under a change in Florida law that now takes into account his young age when the crime was committed.

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