Martin Rodriguez hopes this is the last image he'll ever see of his former next-door neighbor. "As long as I never have to see him again, I'll be fine," Rodriguez said about Thomas Wiley.
Wiley is now a graying man in a prison jumpsuit, but last year Rodriguez saw him bearing down with a gun in his hand during an argument over Wiley's loud TV. Wiley pulled the trigger and last month, he was convicted of mayhem, plus a gun enhancement. A judge sentenced the 61-year-old to 29 years to life in prison.
Rodriguez is suffering his own life sentence. The shooting left him paralyzed from the neck down. "I feel like a prisoner, you know?" he said. "He gets an hour out. I only get an hour out."
During his trial in June, Wiley claimed Rodriguez was charging him, so he closed his eyes and shot his gun. He never looked at Rodriguez in court Wednesday, but apologized for what happened. "One day if possible Mr. Rodriguez could find it in his heart to forgive me, I would like that," Wiley told the court. "But again, this was not intentional. I never set out to hurt or kill anybody."
Rodriguez says Wiley is still denying the truth. "That was a crock," he said. "I was there. I remember everything from that night. He'd like me to forgive and forget. I can forgive, but I can't forget."
Rodriguez says he's trying to appreciate the fact that he survived and make the best out of his life, such as it is. His wife and daughter have to care for him constantly, but he says he tries to make it worthwhile for them. "I've already accepted my fate, you know?" he said. "They say I'm a nicer guy now and I can't yell as much because I got a quarter lung collapsed, so I have a nicer voice."