The Supreme Judicial Court ruled today there's no question that Antonio Fernandez is a murderer, but ordered a Norfolk Superior Court judge to consider whether he should one day get a chance at parole because he was only 16 when he fatally shot another teen celebrating his graduation from high school in 2002.
The court said Fernandez deserves at least a hearing on the question under a Supreme Court ruling that minors cannot be automatically sentenced to life without parole without at least a hearing.
According to the court, Fernandez, at the time a Roxbury resident, and two friends rolled into Brookline and asked a group of kids celebrating Perry Hughes's recent graduation from high school if they had any marijuana. The request turned into an argument, threats were exchanged, but Fernandez and his friends biked away. Then:
It took the defendant about fifteen seconds to ride in the vicinity of forty-five feet away from the victim and his friends. At that point, having moved away from the scene of the confrontation, the defendant, unprovoked, stopped and put his bicycle down. He turned to one of his friends and said, "Fuck that shit." The defendant then pulled out a handgun, cocked it, and began making his way back toward the victim. The victim had not moved, and his hands were in the air; he was not holding anything. The defendant stated, "I don't shoot the fair ones," pointed the handgun at the victim's chest, and fired. The bullet struck the victim in the center of his chest, passing through his left lung and heart before leaving his body. The victim collapsed nearby, bleeding profusely from his chest. The defendant ran away laughing. He and his friends fled the scene.
Fernandez then fled to New York, where he was arrested three days later.
Prosecutors proposed charging him with second-degree murder, which would have meant a chance at parole after 15 years, but he rejected that and had a trial before a jury, which convicted him of first-degree murder.
In its ruling today, the state's highest court rejected his current lawyer's request to toss the case altogether, saying he had gotten a fair trial, but said he deserved a hearing on the appropriateness of the sentence, which does not allow for parole, because of his age at the time.
Pursuant to our holding in Diatchenko, 466 Mass. at 658–659, the defendant's life sentence remains in force, but the exception then present in G. L. c. 265, § 2, rendering him ineligible for parole, is no longer applicable.