Skip to content
Experts: Teen not fit for murder trial
Two experts hired by a defense lawyer for 14-year-old Michael Hernandez have concluded that the boy is not competent to stand trial for allegedly killing a middle school classmate.
Donna Weiss, a licensed clinical psychologist from Fort Lauderdale, and Barry Rosenfeld, a professor of psychology at Fordham University, have determined that Hernandez is not able to handle a trial for the murder of Jaime Gough, also 14, said Hernandez's attorney, Richard Rosenbaum. That contradicts the conclusions of two court-appointed experts, who in June determined Hernandez is able to stand trial.
"Michael does have a factual understanding of the charges before him, but he lacks a rational understanding," said Rosenbaum, who submitted the psychologists' sealed findings to Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Henry Leyte-Vidal and prosecutors on Thursday.
"The reports show Michael has a severe mental disorder," Rosenbaum said.
Leyte-Vidal is expected to rule on the boy's competency in September.
During the 30-minute hearing, Hernandez sat up straight and stared directly ahead, mouth firmly shut, showing no emotion.
In the back row, his family sat silently, including his tearful sister, Christina Elizabeth Hernandez, whose name had been on her brother's "hit list."
Rosenbaum objected to a request by prosecutor Carin Kahgan to allow court-appointed psychiatrist Jon Shaw and psychologist Vanessa Adler Shaw to re-examine Hernandez.
"I told my client not to discuss certain areas of the case that prosecutors could use to build a case for premeditated murder," Rosenbaum said.
Leyte-Vidal denied Kahgan's request.
"Doctors were able to find that Michael Hernandez was competent without asking him those questions," he said.
If convicted of first-degree murder, Hernandez will be sentenced to life in prison. Gough died after Hernandez allegedly stabbed him more than 40 times in the bathroom of Southwood Middle School on Feb. 3.
Tania Valdemoro can be reached at email@example.com or 305-810-5006.