FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) — One of the teenagers serving a life prison term for killing a homeless man in 2006 was back in a Broward courtroom on Thursday, pleading for a second chance.
Thomas Daugherty, now 23, was re-sentenced to 40 years in prison for killing Norris Gaynor.
A recent U.S. Supreme court ruling on sentences for juveniles sent the case back to Circuit court judge Cynthia Imperato.
Daugherty, who was 17 when he was caught on surveillance tape smashing a homeless man with a baseball bat, was convicted of delivering the fatal blow that killed Gaynor. Gaynor, a homeless man asleep on a Ft. Lauderdale park bench, was bludgeoned to death.
In court Thursday, Daugherty’s mother Bridget testified that she was to blame for her son’s brutal behavior.
Bridget Daugherty says she was addicted to drugs and alcohol and encouraged her son to abuse drugs when he started living with her as a teenager.
“Thomas’ life with me was like being at an all-night liquor store. Drugs were easy and only a phone call away. I ruined my life and my son’s life and Thomas I am sorry.”
Daugherty’s father, Thomas, said his son has changed for the better since his time in prison.
“Obviously because he’s incarcerated and off drugs, he’s returned to his normal, loving, friendly, kind self,” said Thomas Daugherty, Sr.
But the most emotional testimony came from Thomas Daugherty, Sr. as he tearfully took responsibility for his actions.
“I apologize. I could never apologize enough. I’m sorry,” he told the victim’s family.
Daugherty said when he looks at the video that captured him beating ‘another’ homeless man he said, “I hate everything about that person. I don’t remember that video. But it’s still my responsibility…I did it.”
The sister of the victim, Simone Manning-Moon, told Daugherty, “Thank you for delivering a heartfelt apology.” But then she talked about the unending pain for her parents and family dealing with the murder of Norris Gaynor, saying “The dictionary’s definition of murder is taking another life with malice.”
Then she re-directed some of Daugherty’s comments back at him. “He has so many dreams, so did my brother. He’s too young for this, he’ll never have a chance to grow. Nor will my brother. He deserves a second chance, so did my brother. Can some mercy be shown? There was no mercy for him. You ask what you can do? You can serve your sentence next to the man who was devoid of all feeling for another human being.”
After listening to all testimony Judge Imperato, said, “It’s a tragedy, but you beat a man to death like he was a dog, and I sentence you to 40 years in prison.” Daugherty shook his head with disappointment.
Afterwards, Gaynor’s sister said her family was willing to accept the court’s decision.
“We really thought there had to be a balance between accountability and for how far the defendant had come. We respect the court’s decision,” said Manning-Moon.
Daugherty’s family left court in tears.
“I understand the judge’s position but I would have preferred 30 years or less,” said Defense Attorney Michael Gottlieb.
Gottlieb said there is another appeal pending before the Florida Supreme Court and if successful he will come back again to try to chip away at that 40-year prison sentence.