Taking the stand on day two of a resentencing hearing, convicted middle school killer Michael Hernandez expressed remorse, calling the stabbing death of his best friend "senseless."
The three-day resentencing hearing was in its second day for 26-year-old Hernandez. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole for the 2004 slaying of 14-year-old Jaime Gough.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2012, however, that juveniles could not automatically be sentenced to life without chance of parole, as Florida law required when Hernandez was sent to prison. The decision was later made retroactive to older cases.
When asked in court why he wished to testify, Hernandez immediately expressed remorse.
"I wanted to apologize to Jamie, and I'm sorry for what I did to him," Hernandez said. "It hurts me how senseless it was because he was always such a good friend to me."
Gough, small for his age and bespectacled, was stabbed more than 40 times in the bathroom at Southwood Middle School in Palmetto Bay, Florida, by Hernandez, also 14 at the time, who then hid his knife in a backpack and went to class. At his 2008 trial, jurors rejected Hernandez's claim of insanity and convicted him of first-degree murder.
Also Thursday, Hernandez also apologized to Jamie's parents, Jorge and Maria Gough.
While in prison, Hernandez testified that he'd become a member of a group that assisted other inmates with their cases. He claimed that reading victim's impact statements "humanized the victims."
"It's hard for me to read those statements," he said. "You begin to realize how unnecessary a lot of crime really is, and how much it really hurts people. And it would always remind me how hurtful and how senseless what I did was."
Also discussed were Hernandez's exchanges with a woman who reached out to him through a program for individuals interested in corresponding with inmates. Hernandez reportedly discussed serial killings and violence with the woman.
When questioned in court about the exchanges, Hernandez said he was lonely and was only attempting to fill their conversations with topics that interested her.
In her cross-examination, Miami-Dade Assistant State Attorney Gail Levine accused Hernandez of falsifying his emotions, and "crying on cue."
She also accused Hernandez of showing remorse because of previous remarks in which he said Miami-Dade Circuit Judge John Schlesinger was a "piece of s--t." Hernandez admitted to saying that at one point, but called it a "horrible, stupid thing to say" and that he was venting about the judge.
Levine brought up of a number of Hernandez' jailhouse exchanges with other inmates, in which she discussed evidence supporting his obsessions with serial killers, violent "death metal" music and genocidal historical figures such as Adolf Hitler and the holocaust.
While Hernandez did not defend or deny his statements, alluding that they were "immature" and "stupid," Levine replied "you know what was stupid? What was stupid was you didn't think that I was smart enough to listen to your calls."
"If you hadn't thought of that, we wouldn't have pages and pages and pages of your real thoughts," she added.
During Wednesday's testimony, Gough's parents read a letter stating that they believe Hernandez remains a threat to society and that people would "be living in fear" if he is released.
"Michael committed an atrocious act of violence against our son. We've been devastated by the decision Michael made that day," Gough's parents said in the letter. "He is also a threat to the community."
Trial testimony showed Hernandez kept a journal listing people he wanted to kill, including his own sister, and had been fascinated with other serial killers such as Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer, adding that he felt he was on a mission to "cleanse the planet" by killing.
Hernandez's father, Jesus Hernandez, said the family hopes to get Michael Hernandez better psychiatric help and a sentence that at least allows for a future chance at parole. On the witness stand Wednesday, Jesus Hernandez said he believes his son is in a much better mental state now.
"I think he needs help but prison is not the right place," Jesus Hernandez said.
Other witnesses testified Wednesday that Hernandez had been found with homemade knives, known as "shanks," on at least two occasions in his cell. There is no indication he ever used any of these weapons, however.
This is a developing story and will be continually updated throughout the day.