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Jury favors life without parole for inmate who killed prisoner

June 19, 2013|By Matt Hamilton

A jail inmate who killed a fellow prisoner should be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole, a downtown Los Angeles jury decided Wednesday.

Heriberto Eddie Rodriguez, 32, attacked other inmates before and after killing Chadwick Shane Cochran, said prosecutors, who had urged jurors to give Rodriguez the death penalty.

Rodriguez and another inmate, Christian Perez, beat and stomped Cochran to death during dinner at the downtown Men's Central Jail on Nov. 16, 2005. More than 35 inmates watched the attack, Deputy Dist. Atty. Shannon Knight told jurors earlier this week.

Both men were convicted of first-degree murder, and Perez was sentenced to death in April. Knight said Rodriguez was violent with four other inmates, including two cellmates, before killing Cochran. After Cochran's death, Rodriguez was transferred to a single cell in a disciplinary section of the jail. There, he assaulted one deputy, threatened another and slashed a fellow inmate with a razor blade in the shower, Knight said.

"He does not deserve your sympathy. He does not deserve your mercy," Knight said Tuesday during closing arguments in the penalty phase of Rodriguez's trial. "By his acts, he deserves to die."

After his jailhouse attacks, Knight said, Rodriguez often told his victims to be silent or he would hurt them again. He told one inmate that he would go after the man's family if he snitched, she added.

Rodriguez's attorney, Christopher C. Chaney, acknowledged that his client had been involved in some gruesome crimes in his past, but said that didn't mean he was beyond hope. Chaney said Rodriguez grew up in poverty with an abusive, alcoholic father. Proof of the family's dysfunction, Chaney said, lay in the fate of his brothers: Two are in prison, one of them on death row.

"How can we characterize this as a warm and nurturing home?" Chaney asked.

In an effort to turn his life around four years ago, Rodriguez disavowed his street and prison gang memberships, imperiling his life in custody, Chaney said. Since 2009, the attorney added, Rodriguez has kept a clean record and married a woman he met while behind bars. 

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