Nikolas Cruz sentencing: Prosecutor demands death penalty, but defense pleads 'mentally ill' argument
Warning: This content contains a recollection of crime and can trigger some readers. Discretion is advised.
FORT LAUDERDALE, FLORIDA: Nikolas Cruz, 24, who carried out the horrific mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, is awaiting his sentence as jury deliberations begin on Wednesday. In the closing remarks during his sentencing trial, Cruz's Attorney Melisa McNeill claimed, "You now know that Nikolas is a brain-damaged, broken, mentally ill person, through no fault of his own."
Further, McNeill said, "He was literally poisoned in (his mother's) womb. He was doomed in the womb. He did not have control over who his biological mother was." The attorney added, "And in a civilized, humane society, do we kill brain-damaged, mentally ill, broken people?" Meanwhile, Assistant State Attorney Mike Satz insisted on the death penalty, as per CNN. He mentioned that "Cruz's killings were cold, calculated, meticulously planned, and deserving of execution." Satz went on to challenge Cruz's alcohol damage and mental disorder claims.
The 24-year-old pleaded guilty in 2021 to fatally shooting 14 students and three school staffers at the school. According to DailyMail, jury deliberations will extend till the jury arrives at a verdict. Meanwhile, the jury should be unanimous to sentence the killer to the death penalty, or else Cruz will be given a lifetime in prison. "We are not here to suggest that you do not punish Nikolas Cruz. We are asking that you take into consideration his damage when you make that decision," said McNeil.
The defense attorney also said, "Look into your heart. Look into your soul. The right thing here, not the popular thing, is a life sentence. And if you have to ask yourself: how do I know if I'm making the right decision? If you follow the law, you are making the right decision." Further, she explained, "And I promise you that one day, you will ask yourself: did I make the right decision? You will never regret voting for life."
Further, McNeil claimed, "You can show Nikolas Cruz all the things that he did not show those 17 victims. You can show him all the things that he least deserves. Compassion. Grace. And mercy. Grace is not a limited resource. Compassion is not a limited resource. Mercy is not a limited resource."
Meanwhile, prosecutor Satz said, "His disorders did not cause him to abuse animals, to hate women, to have racist obsessions, or to cause him to murder 14 children and three of their caretakers." The attorney also stated regarding the testimony, "Testimony revealed the unspeakable, horrific brutality and the un-relentless cruelty that the defendant performed in the 1200 building on February 14, 2018."
Further, he claimed, "Cruz was hunting his victims' as he stalked the high school for seven minutes, firing at some victims at close range and returning to some wounded victims as they lay helpless 'to finish them off."
He also urged the jury to review some of Cruz's comments on YouTube, he said, "Some of the remarks the defendant wrote on his YouTube were, 'No mercy, no questions, double tap', 'I'm going to kill a s*** ton of people and murder children.' And on July 4, 2017, 'I love to see the families suffer.'"
Satz also enlisted seven aggravating factors to give him the death penalty. The first aggravating factor he said is that the "defendant has previously been convicted of a capital felony or a felony involving the use or threat of use of violence." Later, the second factor Satz mentioned, "Defendant knowingly created great risk of death to many people." The third factor he stated was all the 17 first-degree murders "were especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel' and the fourth factor is that the 'murders were cold, calculated, and premeditated."
Later, he explained the fourth factor which stated, "murders were cold, calculated, and premeditated." Moreover, the fifth factor is that the "murders were done to disrupt or hinder a governmental function (schooling)." The sixth factor is that "the victims were appointed public officials in the performance of their duties (the three members of staff)." Further, the seventh and final factor is that "the murders were committed during the course of a burglary.' It was explained that by entering the school without permission, Cruz was technically committing burglary."
Throughout the sentencing trial, the parents of deceased children were seen getting emotional and some even stepped out during the proceedings.