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Inmate gets life sentence for role in killing behind bars

Heriberto Eddie Rodriguez, convicted in 2005 death of Chadwick Shane Cochran in L.A.'s Men's Central Jail, claims to have changed.

August 02, 2013|By Matt Hamilton
  • Heriberto Eddie Rodriguez, 33, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole on Friday for the 2005 killing of Chadwick Shane Cochran, 35, in Men's Central Jail.
Heriberto Eddie Rodriguez, 33, was sentenced to life in prison without… (Francine Orr / Los Angeles…)

A man involved in the beating death of a fellow Los Angeles County jail inmate was sentenced Friday to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

A jury in June convicted Heriberto Eddie Rodriguez, 33, in the killing of Chadwick Shane Cochran, 35.

Rodriguez and a fellow inmate, Christian Perez, beat and stomped on Cochran during dinner at Men's Central Jail while more than 50 inmates looked on, prosecutors said.

A probation report made public after Rodriguez's sentencing offered new details about the Nov. 16, 2005, slaying. The killers battered Cochran for at least 30 minutes. At one point, they took a break to eat dinner as Cochran lay motionless on the floor. Inmates in an adjacent room served as lookouts for the attackers, who investigators said were leaders of a jailhouse gang.

The killing prompted an internal investigation by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and cost the county a nearly $1-million settlement with Cochran's family.

Perez was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death in April.

Prosecutors sought the death penalty for Rodriguez, but his attorney successfully argued that the onetime gang member had changed his ways.

During the penalty phase of his trial, Rodriguez took the stand — an unusual move, said his lawyer — and told jurors he'd had a difficult upbringing and accepted responsibility for his violent past.

Family members confirmed that Rodriguez's childhood was marred by his alcoholic, abusive father. Rodriguez's two brothers are also in prison, one on death row — which his attorney offered as proof of the family's dysfunction.

In the years after the killing of Cochran, Rodriguez had put his past behind him, said defense attorney Christopher C. Chaney: He disavowed gang life, married a single mother from behind bars and is now a father figure to her two daughters.

But Deputy Dist. Atty. Shannon Knight called Rodriguez's testimony "manipulative" and reminded jurors that a life sentence in prison would put him exactly where the crime took place: behind bars.

"What do we tell the family of his next victim?" Knight said to jurors. "Sorry? We didn't think he was capable of anything like that? We didn't see it coming?"

On Friday, Rodriguez — shackled at the waist and wearing wire-rim glasses — appeared relaxed in the downtown courtroom

, smiling and waving at family members, including his wife and her daughter.

After Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Curtis B. Rappe delivered the sentence, Rodriguez asked to speak privately with Knight, the prosecutor.

"It was an interesting case," said Rodriguez, grinning as he looked into Knight's eyes. He vowed to continue on his path of transformation.

Although she had told jurors repeatedly that he was beyond hope and deserved to die, Knight afterward made a slight concession.

"Nothing would make me happier," she said, "than to have him prove me wrong."

matt.hamilton@latimes.com

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