Parkland school shooter sentenced to life for killing 17 people

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — A jury on Thursday spared Florida school gunman Nikolas Cruz the death penalty for killing 17 people at a Parkland high school in 2017, sending him to jail for the rest of his life in a decision that left many of the victims’ families angry, bewildered and in tears.

The jury’s recommendation came after seven hours of deliberations over two days, ending a three-month trial that included graphic videos, photos and testimony of the massacre and its aftermath, heartbreaking testimonies from family members of the victims and a visitation of dead blood. -splattered building.

Under Florida law, a death sentence requires a unanimous vote on at least one count. Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer will officially hand down the life sentences on November 1. Loved ones, as well as students and teachers injured by Cruz, will have an opportunity to speak at the sentencing hearing.

Cruz, his hair shaggy, sat hunched over and stared at the table as the jury’s recommendations were read. Rumblings multiplied from the family section – filled with around three dozen parents, spouses and other relatives of the victims – as life sentences were announced. Many shook their heads, looked angry or covered their eyes, as the judge spent 50 minutes reading the jury’s decision for each victim. Some parents were sobbing as they left the court.

Cruz, 24, pleaded guilty a year ago to murdering 14 students and three staff and injuring 17 others on February 14, 2018. Cruz said he chose Valentine’s Day to prevent Stoneman Douglas students from celebrating the holiday again.

The massacre is the deadliest mass shooting ever in the United States. The suspect in the 2019 massacre of 23 people in El Paso, Texas, Walmart is awaiting trial.

Lead prosecutor Mike Satz kept his case simple for the jury of seven men and five women. It focused on Cruz’s eight months of planning, the seven minutes he walked the halls of a three-story classroom, firing 140 rounds with an AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle, and his escape.

It released security footage from the shooting and showed gruesome crime scenes and autopsy photos. Teachers and students testified that they watched others die. He led the jury into the fenced building, which remains bloodstained and riddled with bullet holes. will make tearful and angry statements.

Cruz’s lead attorney, Melisa McNeill, and her team never questioned the horror he inflicted, but focused on their belief that his birth mother’s heavy drinking during pregnancy left him with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. Their experts said his bizarre, disturbing and sometimes violent behavior from the age of 2 was misdiagnosed as attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, meaning he never received the appropriate treatment. It left her widowed adoptive mother upset, they said.

The defense cut short its closing argument, calling only about 25 of the 80 witnesses it said would testify. They never brought up Cruz’s high school days or called his younger half-brother, Zachary, whom they accused of bullying.

In rebuttal, Satz and his team argued that Cruz did not suffer from fetal alcohol damage but did suffer from antisocial personality disorder — simply put, he is a sociopath. Their witnesses said Cruz faked brain damage during the tests and was able to control his actions, but chose not to. For example, they pointed to his job as a cashier at a discount store where he never had discipline issues.

Prosecutors also released numerous video recordings of Cruz discussing the crime with their mental health experts, where he spoke about his planning and motivation.

The defense alleged during cross-examination that Cruz was sexually assaulted and raped by a 12-year-old neighbor when he was 9 years old.

Terry Spencer, The Associated Press


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