Crime

Life prison term for ex-South Miami High student who murdered father

Jason Beckman has little reaction after Judge Rodney Smith sentenced him to life in prison for the first degree murder of his father, South Miami City Commissioner Jay Beckman in April 2009. Beckman was 17 years old when he shot and killed his father while his father was showering in their South Miami home.
Jason Beckman has little reaction after Judge Rodney Smith sentenced him to life in prison for the first degree murder of his father, South Miami City Commissioner Jay Beckman in April 2009. Beckman was 17 years old when he shot and killed his father while his father was showering in their South Miami home. Miami Herald Staff

Jason Beckman, the ex-South Miami High student who killed his politician father with a shotgun blast to the head, didn’t shy away from a harsh sentence.

“If you feel a life sentence is appropriate, then you sentence me,” the gangly young man told a judge.

But Beckman also asked Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Rodney Smith for something else: His own opinion on the case. The judge didn’t hold back.

“You are very vengeful,” Smith told him Friday in court. “Like a ticking time bomb waiting to explode.”

So Smith sentenced Beckman, 22, to life in prison for the slaying of Jay Beckman, the South Miami city commissioner whose death sent shock waves through the small city.

The case was even more unusual because Beckman – 17 at the time of the killing – suffers from a mild form of autism characterized by above-average intelligence.

Friday’s sentence came more than a year after jurors convicted Beckman of first-degree murder. Prosecutors said that in April 2009, he methodically assembled a 12-gauge shotgun, loaded the weapon and walked into the bathroom where his 52-year-old father was showering.

Defense lawyers suggested the shooting was unintentional.

But prosecutors portrayed Beckman as a teen who openly loathed his widowed father and openly talked about wanting to kill him. South Miami High students testified about Beckman’s seething hatred of his father, a civil engineer and president of a local homeowners association.

The students also talked about Beckman’s “List,” an ever-changing document that the teen kept chronicling his enemies, his father always at the top with a “Five” next to his name.

Jurors also heard that Beckman grew angry after the man mockingly joked that the teen “wouldn’t know what do” with bombshell actress Megan Fox.

Beckman’s sentencing was delayed for over a year because of legal wrangling. The judge certainly had weighty issues to mull.

Because of a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, juveniles in Florida can no longer be sentenced to an automatic life sentence for first-degree murder. Judges must consider evidence of their youth, though they can still sentence a defendant to life.

At a Dec. 5 sentencing hearing, the defense underscored his socially awkward demeanor and the bare-boned conditions in which he lived with his father. He was also bullied at school, defense lawyer Herb Smith said.

“It was hell in school. It was hell at home,” Smith said. “That was his life growing up.

Psychologist Michelle Reitman said Beckman had trouble interacting with peers because of his Asperger’s Syndrome, which is characterized by the inability to form meaningful relationships.

“He didn’t participate in school events,” she said. “As far I can tell there were no friends.”

But Reitman also admitted that Asperger’s was no excuse for murder – and that Beckman had been diagnosed with “narcissistic personality disorder.”

Prosecutor Gail Levine showed the psychologist a graphic drawing done by Beckman showing a woman being sexually attacked.

“He has had a preoccupation with violence in the past,” Reitman admitted.

Judge Smith took more than two weeks to consider his decision.

On Friday, the only person left to testify was Beckman. He wore a red jumpsuit reserved for high-profile inmates. In halting monotone speech, Beckman ripped his lawyer as a “clown.” But he also apologized.

“I recognize my mistake. My father shouldn’t be dead. I wish he were here,” Beckman said. “I loved him and really could have improved my relationship with him.”

But Beckman – who has said he likes the regimented life behind bars – did not beg for leniency. Instead, he told the judge to sentence him to what “he feels is appropriate.”

Said Smith: “I do believe a life sentence is justified in this case.”

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