An appeals court has recommended that the gunman who killed 17 students in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Fla., be sentenced to life prison, with no possibility of parole.
Nikolas Cruz, who is 24, has pleaded guilty in the past year to 17 counts of premeditated murder as well as seventeen counts of attempted murder. The issue before jurors today was whether Cruz will remain for the remainder of his time behind bars or condemned to die.
A majority of the jurors is necessary to decide on execution.
The jury unanimously concluded that there were aggravating circumstances in the crimes Cruz committed. However, at least one juror concluded that , for every murder the aggravating elements did not outweigh the mitigating circumstances in this case so the death penalty was not justifiable, leading to the recommendation of a life-long sentence.
When reading the verdict sheets for 17 murder cases that lasted around one hour long, it might be difficult for the observers to know quickly what the jury taken a decision on.
Many people who were in the courtroom as well as the families of the victims — raised their heads in disbelief , and were crying when it became apparent that the jury had recommended a life sentence to Cruz instead of capital punishment.
In response to the jury’s recommendations the prosecutors asked that the affected by Cruz be allowed to provide an account of the crime and the sentence they believe is the proper sentence. The judge accepted the request. This will take place in the weeks ahead.
A judge who is in charge of the matter circuit judge Elizabeth Scherer, cannot overrule the verdict of the jury. Florida eliminated death sentences through the judicial override system in 2016.
The family members of the victims are distraught
When speaking to the press following the verdict, relatives who were victims voiced their anger and displeasure.
“I am disgusted with our legal system. I am disgusted with those jurors,” declared Ilan Alhadeff who is the father of the victim Alyssa Alhadeff. “That you can allow 17 dead and 17 others shot and wounded and not give the death penalty. What do we have the death penalty for? What is the purpose of it? You set a precedent today. You set a precedent for the next mass killing, that nothing happens to you. You’ll get life in jail. I’m sorry – that is not OK. As a country we need to stand up and say that’s not OK!”
“I pray that that animal suffers every day of his life in jail. And he should have a short life,” Alhadeff said.
Cruz committed the murder in the midst of Valentine’s Day in 2018. He was just 19 at the time and was removed from school. He entered the school through an unlocked side entrance and fired an AR-15-style weapon in order to shoot 14 schoolchildren as well as three staff members and also wounded 17 others.
The jury began their deliberations on Wednesday. The next day, jurors asked to examine the weapon used in the murder. The next early in the morning, the jury reported that it had reached the recommendation of an appropriate sentence, around 15 minutes after jurors had the opportunity to look at the weapon, as per The Associated Press.
Prosecutors sought the death penalty
Prosecutors had advocated for the death penalty. In closing arguments on Tuesday, the lead prosecutor Mike Satz told jurors that Cruz was a hunter after those he killed during the encirclement of the school, and then returned to those who he had wounded to shoot them againand then kill the wounded.
“This plan was goal directed, it was calculated, it was purposeful and it was a systematic massacre,” Satz stated.
“Over the trial’s six months, jurors heard students and teachers who survived the shooting describe the attack. They heard graphic testimony from medical examiners and viewed surveillance videos showing Cruz firing into classrooms and hallways, shooting some victims repeatedly,” Allen said in his report.
In their defense attorneys for Cruz provided testimony from counselors and a physician who claim that they believe the plaintiff suffers Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder which they claimed affects his thinking and behaviour. Witnesses have testified that the mother of birth, Brenda Woodard, had been addicted to cocaine and alcohol when the couple was expecting the baby.
“You now know that Nikolas is a brain-damaged, broken, mentally-ill person, through no fault of his own,” Cruz’s lawyer, Melissa McNeil, stated in her closing arguments. “He was literally poisoned in Brenda’s womb.”
Cruz’s massacre is the deadliest mass shooting ever to go before a judge on trial in the U.S., according to The Associated Press. In other incidents where at least 17 victims were killed the shooter was killed by police or by suicide. The suspect is still awaiting trial. suspect in the shooting of 23 victims at the Walmart near El Paso, Texas.