James Herard was sentenced to death by the State of Florida for a robbery double murder. According to court documents James Herard in the process of robbing a Dunkin Doughnuts would shoot and kill Kiem Huynh and Eric Jean-Pierre. James Herard was also convicted for previous robberies that others were shot by thankfully survived.
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James Herard came from a broken home. He was sexually abused by a family friend, and his mother inflicted forms of corporal punishment that some would consider abusive, a Broward jury was told Tuesday.
And when Herard shot to kill during a string of violent robberies in 2008, it excited him.
“I got a deranged mind,” Herard said during an interview with detectives in late 2008. “It’s like sex to me. I enjoyed it.”
The same jury that convicted Herard last month of the murders of Kiem Huynh and Eric Jean-Pierre returned to the Broward courthouse to hear prosecutors tell why the defendant, 24, should be put to death, and to hear defense witnesses explain why his life should be spared.
Broward Circuit Judge Paul Backman can override the jury if it recommends the death penalty, but not if it recommends life in prison without parole.
Prosecutors say Herard was part of a gang that targeted a Dunkin Donuts shop in Plantation on June 20, 2008, and one in Sunrise on Nov. 24, 2008. Two days later, the gang struck again at a Dunkin Donuts on West Atlantic Avenue in Delray Beach. And the day after that, they hit a Dunkin Donuts on State Road 7 and Commercial Boulevard in Tamarac.
In a separate incident, Herard told investigators he encouraged another gang member, Tharod Bell, to shoot and kill Jean-Pierre, 39, in a random attack in Lauderhill on Nov. 14, 2008.
Throughout the spree, Herard and his cohorts shot and wounded numerous doughnut shop customers, prosecutors said. In Delray Beach, one man was left blind and another wheelchair-bound for the rest of his life. In Tamarac, Huynh, 58, was fatally wounded.
The names of the victims were not spoken in court Tuesday.
“The death penalty is reserved for the worst of the worst,” prosecutor Tom Coleman told the jury Tuesday. “I submit to you that this is a case where that standard applies.”
Prosecutors called only one witness: Lauderhill Police Detective Brian Hardy, one of several detectives who interrogated Herard after his arrest in early December 2008. Jurors listened to a portion of that interrogation that included Herard talking about how he enjoyed the acts of violence.
But defense lawyer Kevin Kulik told jurors that Herard was more than a two-dimensional violent criminal. “He’s not one of the worst of the worst,” Kulik said.
Herard’s father left his mother when Herard was just 5 years old, and the child was raised without a strong male role model, Kulik said. Herard’s mother worked two and three jobs at a time to support her children, and sometimes resorted to punishments that would make responsible parents cringe, he said.
One witness, defense sociological expert Gilbert Raiford, said Herard’s mother burned his fingers to stop him from stealing. Raiford also said Herard was sexually abused by a family friend when he was just a child, and nothing was done about it.
In third grade, Herard was enrolled in four different schools, witnesses said.
“No one seemed to notice the problems he was having,” Raiford said. “He never got the help he needed.”
Family members said they were shocked when they learned Herard had been accused in the violent Dunkin Donuts robberies.
“That can’t be James! That cannot be James!” said Wilda Frederick, his cousin, recalling her reaction at news of Herard’s arrest. “Even right now, it’s like, are you serious? It’s not him. … I’m sorry that we’re even sitting here. I’m sorry for his actions.”
The jury will return to Backman’s courtroom Wednesday morning to learn whether Herard will take the stand to plead for his life.
Herard and three others, Bell, Calvin Weatherspoon and Charles Faustin, have already been convicted in the Delray Beach robbery and are serving life sentences. Another co-defendant, Jonathan Jackson, did not participate in that robbery, but all four men are facing charges in connection with the Broward incidents.