It took a jury little more than an hour Friday afternoon to find 35-year-old Desiderio Hernandez guilty of first-degree murder in the shooting death of his cousin, Joseph Debella, in early August 2015.
After hearing testimony from Monday afternoon through Friday morning, the jury got the case at 1:45 p.m. and returned just after 3. They also found Hernandez guilty of use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony and possession of a firearm by a prohibited person. He will be sentenced Jan. 31, 2017. While voters in November opted to repeal a bill that was set to abolish the death penalty, the murder case against Hernandez didn’t possess the “aggravating circumstances” necessary to make it eligible for capital punishment. Those circumstances usually apply when multiple murders are committed at once, or if a murder was exceptionally brutal. All 10 of Nebraska’s current death row prisoners either have multiple first-degree murder convictions, or killed a child.
Hernandez faces a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The jury believed witness testimony and forensic evidence presented by prosecutors with the Attorney General’s Office that pointed at Hernandez for the shooting death of his 31-year-old cousin in the basement of a Falls City residence.
The prosecution argued that Hernandez intentionally fired the gunshot that struck Debella in the head and ultimately resulted in his death in a Lincoln hospital more than a week later. Witnesses inside the home at the time of the shooting said they “heard a loud noise come from the basement area” and a short time later observed Hernandez emerge from the basement.
Debella was located on the floor, unresponsive and with labored breathing.