DeSantis and Crist say Parkland shooter deserved death penalty
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis tore up a jury’s decision on Thursday to recommend that Parkland school gunman Nikolas Cruz serve a life sentence – arguing he should be put to death instead .
« I think if you have the death penalty, then it’s a case — where you slaughter these students with premeditation and a complete disregard for basic humanity — that you deserve the death penalty, » DeSantis said.
« And so the jurors came back, apparently it was 11-1 [in favor of execution] with a recalcitrant refusing to allow the ultimate punishment,” he added. « And that means this killer is going to end up getting the same sentence as people who have committed wrongdoing, but wrongdoing that hasn’t escalated to that level.
« I just don’t think anything else is appropriate except capital punishment in this case, » the governor continued, « and so I was very disappointed to see that. »
The Republican made the comments at a news conference moments after the jury recommended Cruz serve a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
The jury took seven hours to reach the decision, which ended the three-month penalty phase of the Cruz case. Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer will officially hand down the sentence on November 1. Under Florida law, she cannot reject the jury’s recommendation and sentence Cruz to death.
Cruz, now 24, pleaded guilty to the 2018 Valentine’s Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that left 14 students and three teachers dead and injured 17 others.
DeSantis also criticized the slow pace of the case, which took more than four years to complete.
“He is guilty – everyone knew that from the start – and yet it takes years and years in this justice system. It is not serving the victims,” he said.
Several family members of the victims also denounced the jury’s decision, outraged that Cruz was not sentenced to death.
Debra Hixon, the wife of slain athletic director Christopher Hixon, said she was « completely devastated and shocked » by the jury’s decision.
« What he tells me, what he tells my family, what he tells other families is that [Cruz’s] life meant more than the 17 who were murdered,” she said.
« Really right now it feels like his life is worth more than Christopher’s, and that’s not true, » Hixon added.
“This animal deserves to die. He chased all those people away. He planned this for months,” said Mike Schulman, the father of Scott Beigel, a geography teacher shot by Cruz while sheltering students in his classroom.
« The last thing my son saw was the shooter aiming at him, » Schulman said.
DeSantis will face former Florida Democratic Governor Charlie Crist in the state gubernatorial election in November.
Crist also came out and condemned the jury’s verdict on Thursday, saying in a statement that « there are crimes for which the only just punishment is death. »
The popular DeSantis leads Crist by almost 8 percentage points, according to an average of Real Clear Politics polls.