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News Stories Researched and Posted by our Team of Volunteer Citizen Journalists
By Zachary Stieber October 13, 2022
Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz will be sentenced to life without parole for the 2018 murder of 17 people at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, after the jury said on Oct. 13 that it could not unanimously agree that he should be executed.
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 from the massacre and its aftermath, heart-wrenching testimony from victims’ family members and a tour of the still blood-spattered building.
Under Florida law, a death sentence requires a unanimous vote on at least one count. Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer will formally issue the sentence later.
Cruz, his hair unkempt, largely sat hunched over and stared at the table as the jury’s recommendations were read. Rumblings grew from the family section—packed with about 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.
The decision came after Cruz pleaded guilty in 2021 to all murder charges, including 17 counts of murder.
Cruz, now 24, gunned down 14 students and three staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14, 2018. Others were left wounded.
Melissa McNeill, Cruz’s lead public defender, urged jurors not to recommend a death sentence for her client.
“Sentencing Nicholas to death will change absolutely nothing. It will not bring back those 17 innocent victims that he viciously murdered. It won’t. You now know that Nikolas is a brain damaged, broken, mentally ill person through no fault of his own,” she said, describing Cruz’s mother as having “poisoned” her son while he was still in the womb.
“He was doomed from the womb. And in a civilized, humane society, do we kill brain damaged, mentally ill, broken people? Do we? I hope not,” McNeill said.
Michael Satz, the lead prosecutor, noted that Cruz said he picked Valentine’s Day for the shooting because he “wanted to ruin it for everyone.”
“What he wanted to do, what his plan was, and what he did was to murder children at school and their caretakers. That’s what he wanted to do. That’s what he planned to do. That’s what he wanted to do. And that’s what he did. And he picked Valentine’s Day to do it while school was in session. And you could tell by the evidence in the testimony you’ve been sitting here listening to everything, this plan was goal directed. It was calculated. It was purposeful. And it was this systematic massacre,” Satz said.
“So he carried out his plan, and his plan was, and he told everybody what his plan is. They found his phone and the cell phone with three cell phone videos on it and the one that he made on February the 11th, 2018, ‘Hello. My name is Nick. I’m going to be the next school shooter of 2018. My goal is to kill at least 20 people with an AR and a couple of tracer rounds. I think I can get it done. Location. Stoneman Douglas in Parkland, Florida. It’s going to be a big event. And when you see me on the news, you’ll know who I am. Ha, ha. You’re all going to die. Can’t wait. Can’t wait.’ That was his plan. He carried it out.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.