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Brazill Expresses Sorrow at Sentencing Hearing

Aired July 26, 2001 - 15:44   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: CNN having to break in now. Want to take you immediately to West Palm Beach, Florida. Nathaniel Brazill, the 14-year-old who's convicted of second-degree in the killing of his teacher last year is on the stand now. He is to testify in his own defense at the sentencing phase of his hearing. The court had taken a brief break and now has returned to session, with Nathaniel Brazill taking the stand.

Just before the break, his parents had both spoken to the court. The decision will be made by the judge as to his sentencing. His parents have both spoken before the court asking for mercy and leniency in the case of Nathanial Brazill. Now Nathanial Brazill is to talk for himself about what he thinks his sentencing ought to be.

The minimum sentence is 25 years. That's without a possibility of leniency for good behavior. The maximum would be life in prison. CNN"s Mark Potter is covering the story now in West Palm.

Mark, bring ups up to date, here.

MARK POTTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Joie, we are, I believe, waiting for Judge Richard Wennet to come into the courtroom, or at least to call the court to order. This is typically what happens. Everybody else comes into the courtroom first, and then the judge comes in.

I can tell you that, having talked with Nathaniel Brazill's lawyer, Robert Udell, yesterday afternoon, he said that he expects that Nathanial will give a brief statement. And probably the most important thing that he will do is express his sorrow to the Grunow family. He will apologize to them for what happened, and in the words of his lawyer, Robert Udell, he will say that he knows that there's no way that he can know the pain that they feel.

Obviously, there has been a lot of talk, we all have heard it, that Nathanial did not do well on the witness stand during the trial, that he came off looking as if he was -- did not feel remorse. He was very stoic. The lawyer has said that that certainly did not do him well, and I believe the attempt this time to is to correct that. Now the judge is coming into the courtroom. Judge Richard Wennet, coming in, calling the court to order.

JUDGE RICHARD WENNET, PALM BEACH COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT: Before we go any further, I think it's appropriate that I make an announcement now. In light of where we are in this case, in light of the length of these proceedings, I think it's appropriate that we not -- that the court not impose a sentence today. but rather to reconvene tomorrow to do that.

And I know there's a number of people that -- that perhaps would like to go home now or make plans, and I think that would be appropriate. I'll get good time from everyone after the hearing. That is, the evidence and the argument is over today as to when everyone would like to come back. That having been said, very well.

ROBERT UDELL, NATHANIAL BRAZILL'S ATTORNEY: Call Nathaniel Brazill. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you solemnly swear or affirm the testimony you're about to give in your cause to be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God?

NATHANIAL BRAZILL, CONVICTED OF SECOND-DEGREE MURDER: I do.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.

UDELL: Take a seat.

BRAZILL: Nathanial Brazill. B-R-A-Z-I-L-L.

WENNET: Again, good afternoon, and welcome.

UDELL: Nathanial, is there something you would like to tell the judge prior to sentence?

BRAZILL: Yes. I'm reading this today because the words I say are important and they come from my heart. Words cannot really explain how sorry I am, but they are all I have. I have given -- I have given these words a lot of thought, and I'm trying to obtain some -- I'm trying obtain some peace from the community I have destroyed. I am sorry for the pain I have caused the Grunow family. Mr. Grunow was a great man and a great teacher. I'm sorry I took him away from you.

I have been thinking a lot about how his kids will feel when they are my age. I have be been thinking a lot about Mrs. Grunow and how lonely she is. When I look back at the (LAUGHTER)st day of school, I deeply regret the choices that I made that day. I understand that my choices caused a lot of pain to the Grunow family, my friends, and the kids I went to school with.

As I look back on that day, I wish it had not happened and that I could bring Mr. Grunow back. If I would have thought about what I was doing, none of this would have happened. I would like to say to everyone that I am very, very sorry. Mr. Grunow's family, I'm sorry.

And regardless of what anyone thinks, I never intended to hurt Mr. Grunow. That's all, your honor.

WENNET: Thank you, Nathanial. Is there anything else, Mr. Udell?

UDELL: Nothing. WENNET: Mr. Shiner, Ms. Barnes (ph)?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, Judge.

WENNET: Thank you. You may return to counsel table.

CHEN: Very brief statement from Nathaniel Brazill, the 14-year- old young man convicted of second-degree murder in the killing of his -- man he described as his favorite teacher at one point, Barry Grunow. It happened in May of last year at the end of the school year.

CNN's Mark Potter has been covering this trial throughout. He rejoins us now from outside the courthouse in West Palm. Mark, the thing I noted in what Nathaniel Brazill had to say is he used the word "sorry" over and over again, of course, in his prepared statement. But he also made that mention in the end that he never intended to hurt Mr. Grunow.

POTTER: Well, that's the point that they've made throughout, in the trial, before the trial, after the trial. They still contend, and his lawyer said it to us again yesterday, that this was not an intentional killing. Yes, he took a gun to school, yes, it was loaded, yes, he aimed it at the teacher's head, yes, he cocked the gun. But no, he did not intend to fire it. That point is still being made.

And again, as the lawyer said, he wanted to make the point that he is sorry, to let it be known that he is remorseful. All through the prosecution's case today with the witnesses, they said that they thought the boy was not being remorseful. Just now, he appeared to have been. Back to you.

CHEN: CNN's Mark Potter, covering the case for us at West Palm Beach, Florida. And again, we heard from the judge that he would not impose the sentence today. The minimum sentence is 25 years, the maximum sentence is life in prison for Nathanial Brazill. The judge said he would not be imposing the sentence today. He expects that to happen sometime tomorrow.

See the latest developments here on CNN. We'll take a break. More news after this.

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