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MIAMI (CBSMiami) — A man who stabbed a classmate to death in a bathroom at Southwood Middle School nearly a decade ago has taken the stand in his re-sentencing hearing.
Michael Hernandez, 26, was given a mandatory life sentence for the 2004 murder of Jamie Gough. Both were 14 years old at the time. Trial evidence showed Hernandez was obsessed with becoming a serial killer.
On the stand Thursday morning, Hernandez seemingly choked up as he apologized for what he did.
“I want to apologize to Jaime and I’m sorry for what I did to him. It hurts me how senseless it was because he was always such a good friend to me. I wanted to apologize to his family, him mother and his father, I didn’t always feel this way,” said Hernandez.
He was then asked about morbid conversations he had with a pen pal about serial killers and violence. Hernandez said he did it because he wanted the woman, who was a self-professed crime buff, to like him.
“I just wanted her to, you know, like me. In hindsight it was a bad decision,” he testified.
Hernandez said up until recently he suffered from delusions and was not thinking properly. He said he didn’t realize this until he began talking with a psychologist.
“I didn’t see how illogical it was for a while. After being told by everyone that I was wrong, and that what I was thinking made absolutely no sense, it made me think how could that be, how could I have let myself get so far off the mark,” said Hernandez. “I had a solid dose of reality when Dr. Rosenfeld was asking me about the the delusions I was having. We talked about the final one which was the world cleansing. He asked me whether I thought I could actually pull off killing all six billion people in world and it dawned on me just then, because I had believed it, it dawned on me how illogical that was.”
Hernandez attorneys hope to show that he suffers from a mental illness and which should mitigate a life sentence.
Hernandez was informed that after he’s re-sentenced, that term will be up for review in 13 years. If he was released at that time, Hernandez was asked what he would do.
Hernandez said he would enroll in the corrections department’s re-entry programs so he could learn what to do to re-enter society.
“I would do what I can to have a psychologist, somebody on the outside, that would be there to help me and assist me in re-integrating because by that time I would have been incarcerated for 25 years,” said Hernandez. “I would need that sort of help.”
Hernandez said he would look for employment and work on getting his bachelor’s degree. He said he would like to be a paralegal. In time, he added, that he would like to get married and have children.
Prosecutor Gail Levine then cross-examined Hernandez. She pointed to jail calls where he referred to the judge as “a piece of (expletive).”
“It was a horrible stupid thing to say,” replied Hernandez.
She also brought up the violent nature of the calls and letters he exchanged with his pen pal. He said she had a “fascination with gore.”
“Suicides, murders, deformed fetuses, it’s not sad to you, it’s your passion,” said Levine.
When asked why he put his sister’s name on a ‘hit list’ he kept in his journal, Hernandez replied he never intended to hurt her.
Levine also brought up the fact that in the last 12 years, since he’s been incarcerated, he’s never apologized to the Goughs.
Hernandez replied that he was told he was not to have contact with the victim’s family.
Levine also grilled Hernandez on his drug use behind bars and how he’s only showing remorse now that he may have a chance at parole in the future.
Hernandez, who at one point broke down in tears, said he’s made stupid choices in the past but he’s changed and would better ones in the future.
Levine lambasted Hernandez for his supposed tears.. She reminded him of a jail house call he had with his pen pal girlfriend in which he said he was unable to cry and may have to stab himself if tears were needed.
After a break Keith Cruz, a defense hired forensic psychologist, took the stand. He testified that Hernandez was suffering from a “psychotic episode” when he killed Gough.
Dr. Rick Suarez, who evaluated Hernandez, kicked off the day’s testimony and said Hernandez coldly plotted Gough’s murder.
“He was about someone who at a very young age, which is very disturbing, just wanted to kill and that’s what he did,” said Suarez.
During his testimony Wednesday, Suarez quoted from a detailed journal Hernandez had created: “Make sure they’re dead. “Make sure no one else is in the bathroom. If so, kill them.”
Assistant public defense Manny Alvarez grilled Suarez on his long time role as a “go to” psychologist for the state and how it may have influenced his impression of Hernandez, according to CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald.
Previous testimony in the hearing included former Southwood Middle student Andre Martin, who was one of the first names on Hernandez’s ‘hit list’. Martin testified that Hernandez was “amused” by horror movies, liked music groups with violent lyrics. He said at the time he had no idea his name was on the list.
Martin said he felt Hernandez’s life sentence was just, “I feel like the sentence was fitting of the crime.”
Following Martin’s testimony, prosecutor Gail Levine read a letter from Gough’s parents who said they had forgiven Hernandez “spiritually” but didn’t want him released from prison because he still posed a threat to the community.
Also taking the stand was Hernandez’s father, Jesus, who urged the court to release his son because he felt he had changed. When Hernandez was questioned about his son’s prison phone calls where he talked about his fascination with serial killers and metal music, Jesus pushed back saying likes, or dislikes, in music don’t make a man.
Hernandez re-sentencing hearing was mandated because the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that juveniles could not automatically be sentenced to life without chance of parole. The decision was later made retroactive to older cases.
Hernandez could still receive a new life sentence but would be eligible for parole after 25 years.
CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald contributed to this report.