Richard Rosenbaum told a Miami-Dade County judge Tuesday that he thinks computer records may show Jaime Gough contemplated suicide before he was discovered stabbed to death inside a bathroom stall at Southwood Middle School in southwest Miami-Dade.
Prosecutors told Circuit Judge Henry Leyte-Vidal that a limited investigation of the computer revealed no such evidence. Authorities are refusing to release the computer, which was kept in Gough's room and used by his entire family. Handing over the computer would invade the family's privacy, Miami-Dade Assistant State Attorney Carin Kaghan said.
The battle over Gough's computer has been brewing for more than a year, but it finally came before the judge on Tuesday. Leyte-Vidal agreed to review the findings generated by a computer forensics inquiry before ruling.
After Hernandez, 15, confessed to killing Gough, prosecutors charged him as an adult. His attorneys plan to pursue an insanity defense at his trial.
In a separate motion on Tuesday, Rosenbaum argued that prosecuting a mentally ill child in an adult court on a first-degree murder charge is unconstitutional. The judge did not immediately rule on the second motion either.
Rosenbaum on Tuesday downplayed the notion that the stabbing death was part of a suicide pact, and admitted he would not argue as much in front of a jury. He said he largely wants to examine the computer to make sure it does not contain information that could help his young client, and does not want to take authorities' word for it. If convicted, Hernandez could be sent to prison for the rest of his life.
"We want to know what was going on in Jaime Gough's head," Rosenbaum said. "If there's nothing in the computer, then the whole thing might be moot. In a case in which a child could be sent to prison for the rest of his life, we need to be sure."
Several days before his death, Gough revealed to his best female friend that he had tried to commit suicide, according to a statement made by the girl identified only as "B.W." The classmate said Gough told two other friends that he had tried to commit suicide, court documents said.
Prosecutors said that a Miami-Dade police investigator ran an exhaustive keyword search on Gough's computer. The search, which included the words "suicide" and "Columbine," yielded no hits.
The investigator discovered Hernandez's name only once on Gough's computer.
Police discovered an instant message conversation between the two eighth-graders that pertained only to a classroom assignment, prosecutors said.
Gough's parents did not comment after the hearing, but appeared upset as they left the courthouse.
The couple's attorney, Gregg Schwartz, expressed outrage at Rosenbaum's request.
"What does any of this have to do with an insanity defense in which you have a kid saying, `I did it. I confess,'" Schwartz said. "It's a shame they have to drag the victim's name when the only issue here is if Michael Hernandez was sane or not."
Ihosvani Rodriguez can be reached at email@example.com or 305-810-5005.