Homeless man's killer pleas for reduced sentence
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (WSVN) -- A man convicted of beating a homeless man to death made an emotional plea during a hearing to reduce his sentence.
"If that night could change, I would do it," said a tearful Thomas Dougherty in court Thursday.
The convicted killer pleaded to have his life sentence changed, and what he and his family-- as well as the victim's sister-- had to say made an impact on the judge.
Dougherty was just 17 years old when he and two other friends went on a booze-and-drug-fueled homeless beating binge in Fort Lauderdale, on Jan. 12, 2006. One of the victims died.
After Dougherty was sentenced to life, a judge tossed that sentence back, saying the judge should have considered his young age at the time of the crime as well as whether or not he could be rehabilitated.
One of the beatings-- not the fatal one-- was recorded on surveillance camera. "I don't remember that video," Dougherty said. "I don't remember doing that to Mr. Pierre. When I saw that, I hated that person. I didn't understand who that person was. I know that it was me. I'm responsible. Everything that my family said, as far as my mother and the drugs and my father, everything, yeah, it's all good and well, but it's still my responsibility. It's still my actions. They didn't swing. I did."
The body of 45-year-old Norris Gaynor was wheeled away from one of those attack scenes with his skull split open by a baseball bat. Gaynor was a free spirit who liked to sleep beneath the stars. It was a practice that would cost him his life.
Dougherty, along with two other juveniles, was convicted of murder for Gaynor's beating death. From the beginning Dougherty appeared remorseful. "I had no right to do what I did," he said tearfully in his first trial.
His mother Bridget Dougherty testified on Thursday that she shares part of the blame for how the defendant grew up. "Tom's life with me was like being at an all-night liquor store," she said. "It's my fault that Thomas is where he is."
Simone Manning-Moon, the victim's sister, also does not think Dougherty deserves such a harsh penalty. After thanking Dougherty for his apology she said, "He deserves a second chance of life. So did Norris. A sentence of life is so very, very harsh, and so was the sentence of death."
Judge Cynthia Imperato could have issued another life sentence. In the end, though, she could not forgive the murder completely, and she relented slightly. "Your story is really heart-breaking," she said. "But we have someone who's dead, someone who was sleeping on a bench. A homeless person was beaten to death like a dog. I can't get beyond that, so considering all that, I sentence you to 40 years in Florida state prison."
Considering time served, which is about seven years and the fact that he must at least serve 85 percent of his sentence, Dougherty has to serve at least another 25 years in prison.
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