The jury foreman told a local news outlet that more than one juror voted for life in prison rather than the death penalty.
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — A jury spared the Florida school shooter Nicholas Cruz of the death penalty Thursday for manslaughter 17 people at a Parkland high school in 2018 and sent him to prison for the rest of his life, a decision that left many of the victims’ families angry, stunned and in tears.
“This is crazy. Everyone knows, right? This is insane,” Chen Wang, cousin of shot victim Peter Wang, said at a news conference after the jury’s decision was read. “We need justice.”
Cruz, 24, pleaded guilty a year ago to murdering 14 students and three staff members and injuring 17 others at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School February 14, 2018.
The three-month process to determine if he should be executed included vivid videos and photos of the massacre and its aftermath, heartbreaking testimonies from the victims’ family members, and a tour of the still blood-splattered building. The jury rejected the death penalty after deliberating for about seven hours over two days.
“We are more than disappointed with today’s result,” said Lori Alhadeff, whose daughter Alyssa was killed, at the press conference.
“That should have been 100% the death penalty. … I sent my daughter to school and she was shot eight times. I am so disappointed and frustrated with this result. I can not understand. I just do not understand.”
Under Florida law, a death sentence requires a unanimous vote in at least one case. The jury found that there were aggravating factors to justify the death penalty for each victim, such as agreeing that the murders were “particularly heinous, gruesome, or gruesome.” In the end, the jury disagreed that the aggravating factors Factors outweighed the mitigating factors, so Cruz gets life without parole.
District Judge Elizabeth Scherer will officially hand out the life sentences on November 1. Relatives as well as the injured students and teachers Cruz are given the opportunity to speak.
Cruz sat hunched over, mostly with unkempt hair, staring at the table while the jury’s decisions were read out. In the family division – packed with about three dozen parents, spouses and other relatives of the victims – there was a rumor when it emerged that the jury would not recommend the death penalty. Many shook their heads, looked angry or covered their eyes while the judge spent 50 minutes reading out the jury’s decision for each victim. Some parents sobbed as they left the court.
Jury chairman Benjamin Thomas pointed out in an interview broadcast by local television station WPLG that more than one juror voted in favor of life imprisonment instead of the death penalty.
“We went through all the evidence and some of the jury just thought that was the appropriate sentence,” Thomas said decisively.”
He said the jury made its decision on Wednesday, then went home to sleep on it before presenting it to the judge on Thursday.
He said he felt sorry for the families of the victims and “it hurts” to see the decisions being read out in court. “We can not do anything. Such is the law. And that’s how we voted,” he said.
“That was really hard on my heart … I’d rather never see anything like that again.”
Tony Montalto, father of Gina Montalto, expressed disbelief at the discovery. He said the jury recognized Cruz’s horrific acts, “shooting, some victims more than once at a pass, pressing the barrel of his gun to my daughter’s chest. That doesn’t make up for the fact that the poor little one, as his name is, had a tough upbringing?”
“Our justice system should have been deployed to punish this shooter to the fullest extent of the law,” he said.
Montalto, president of Stand With Parkland, which represents most families and other relatives, also said the decision would not stop anyone from shooting multiple people at a school.
Michael Schulman, stepfather of teacher Scott Beigel, said the decision gave everyone a license to kill and then claimed mental illness as a defense. “This animal deserves to die. He was chasing all these people,” Schulman said. “He’s been planning it for months.”
Speaking to the media, Schulman held up a laptop with a picture of Cruz in the school hallway with a gun. “The last thing my son saw was the gunman aiming at him,” he said.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said it hurts that Cruz did not receive the death penalty.
In a case like this, “where you are deliberately massacring these students with utter disregard for basic humanity … I just don’t think anything other than a death penalty is appropriate,” DeSantis said.
Several family members called Cruz a “monster” and spoke about the years they waited for justice. They thanked the prosecutors for their work, but in the end, they said, they took another hit.
Just days after the shooting, Cruz’s defense offered that he plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence. But that was rejected by then-Brward prosecutor Mike Satz.
Broward prosecutor Harold Pryor released a statement on Thursday, saying: “We have not shied away from telling all the horror, all the loss, all the devastation, all the pain, all the facts, all the truth . We hope that while there is no conclusion, this will bring some measure of finality and justice to this horrific chapter.”
Cruz, a former student at the school, said he’s made up his mind valentines day to make it impossible for Stoneman Douglas’ students to celebrate the holiday again.
The massacre is the deadliest mass shooting on trial in the United States. Nine other people in the US who fatally shot at least 17 people died by suicide or police gunfire during or immediately after their attacks. The suspect in the 2019 massacre of April 23 El Paso, Texas, Walmart waiting for the process.
Set, the lead prosecutor, retained his case easy for the seven-member, five-member jury. He focused on Cruz’s eight-month plan, the seven minutes in which he stalked the hallways of the three-story classroom building and fired 140 shots AR-15 style semi-automatic rifle, and be Escape.
He played security footage of the shooting, showing gruesome crime scenes and autopsy photos. Teachers and students testified that they saw others die. He took the jury to himself the fenced building, which remains bloodstained and full of bullets.
Cruz’s lead attorney, Melisa McNeill, and her team never questioned the horror he caused, instead focusing on their belief that his biological mother get drunk during pregnancy left him with a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. Her 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 proper treatment. That left his widowed adoptive mother overwhelmed, they said.
The defense broke their case Called only about 25 of the 80 witnesses they said would testify. They never spoke about Cruz’s high school years or called his younger half-brother, Zachary, who allegedly bullied Cruz.
In counterargument, Satz and his team claimed that Cruz did not suffer from fetal alcohol damage, but rather suffered from antisocial personality disorder.
Her witnesses said Cruz faked brain damage during the test and that he was able to control his actions, but chose not to. For example, they referred to his job as a cashier in a discount store, where he never had any disciplinary problems.
Prosecutors also played numerous video footage of Cruz discussing the crime with their mental health experts, in which he discussed his planning and motivations.
The defense cross-examined that Cruz was molested and raped by a 12-year-old neighbor when he was 9 years old.
https://www.kvue.com/article/news/crime/parkland-school-shooter-sentence-jury-decision/507-dfa45d27-8844-4c1d-957a-11fd919ed700 Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz faces life in prison: jury