A Florida jury has recommended life in prison for Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz, who pleaded guilty last year to murdering 14 students and three staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
17 other students were also hurt in the 2018 shooting massacre. Prosecutors had demanded the death penalty for the now 24-year-old Cruz, who was 19 when he walked onto the suburban Miami school grounds and opened fire with an assault-type weapon.
Elizabeth Scherer, Broward County Circuit Judge, set Nov. 1 sentencing
Relatives in the packed courtroom held hands and wept Thursday waiting as the verdicts were read. The panel of seven men and five women had two choices, death or life in prison without parole.
Judge Scherer read out the verdicts of each case to Cruz with little emotion.
Jurors began hearing witness testimony in deciding Cruz’s fate on July 18. They had toured the crime scene and after deliberating for little more than one day, announced Thursday morning they had reached a verdict.
Parkland massacre was the worst mass shooting at a high school in U.S. History.
Family members looked confused as Cruz was sentenced to life in prison. Some were angry. Others simply wept in disbelief.
Cruz was portrayed by the prosecution to be a brutal, calculating murderer. The defense attorneys claimed that Cruz was brain damaged and broken and tainted by the heavy drinking and drug abuse of his mother before he was born.
Cruz pleaded guilty in October 2021 to 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder for the February 2018 shootings.
The shooter was “hunting his victims,” prosecutors said and had returned to kill students including Peter Yang and Joaquin Oliver, whose initial gunshot wounds were not fatal, according to the testimony of medical examiners.
Since 2019, Florida has not executed a single execution.