Nikolas Cruz sentenced to life, avoids death penalty after jurors fail to reach unanimous decision

Nikolas Cruz sentenced to life, avoids death penalty after jurors fail to reach unanimous decision
Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz at the Broward County Courthouse August 22, 2022 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida (Amy Beth Bennett-Pool/Getty Images)

PARKLAND, FLORIDA: Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz, 24, is all set to avoid the death penalty after jurors fail to come to an unanimous decision. Cruz then 19, shot dead 17 people, that included 14 students, and 3 staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on February 14, 2018. News agency Reuters had initially reported that death penalty is being recommended by the jury, however, shortly after it issued a correction.

As per Florida state law, a death penalty could only have been handed down if jurors unanimously recommended he be executed. The only other option would be life in prison. Jurors returned the verdict of recommending life in prison after just a day of deliberation, whereas the trial lasted three months. During the proceedings, graphic videos and photos, stomach-churning testimony from victims’ family members, and a tour of the "still blood-spattered" school building were given, reported Daily Mail.

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On Thursday, October 13, the verdict was decided with a formal announcement to be made by Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer, on November 1, as she has no choice but to hand Cruz life imprisonment. At the time of sentencing, the relatives and students of the victims will be given the chance to speak.

There was a huge emotional reaction to the verdict as victims’ families and friends can be seen shaking their heads, looking angry, and covering their eyes and faces. Nikolas Cruz’s case is the deadliest mass shooting in the US history to have gone to the trial. The stats reveal that nine other people who fatally shot at least 17 people, either died during or immediately after carrying attacks by suicide or police gunfire, as per the report.

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Ilan Alhadeff, father of Alyssa, who was shot eight times said, this decision by "sets a precedent" for the next mass killing. “I'm disgusted with our legal system, I'm disgusted with those jurors. I'm disgusted with the system,” he added.

Another woman was left in utter disbelief, appearing to mouth "unbelievable," while being comforted by her husband. Gina Montalto's parents began clutching each other's hands moments before the reading began, and broke down through the reading. Luke Hoyer's mother was also seen crying. Alaina Petty's mother and Jaime Guttenberg's father were seen holding their heads in their hands.

Cruz’s defense team admitted to the severity of the crime but appealed to the jurors to consider mitigating factors, such as lifelong mental health disorders resulting from his biological mother’s substance abuse during pregnancy, which his defense psychologist claimed that he suffers from a condition called fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.

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At the time of the shooting, Cruz, who was only 19 years old, and was expelled from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. He expressed extreme regret and pleaded guilty, asking to be given another chance to do better.

There have been no significant steps taken in the direction of gun control after the Parkland shooting, and in fact, gun sales have continued to rise. In the most recent mass shootings, 19 young children and two adults were killed in May at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. However, this has prompted Congress to pass legislation to increase funding for school security and mental health care for students.

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