FLORIDA—October 13, 2022–a Broward County jury has reached a decision in Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz’s death penalty case.
Cruz pleaded guilty last year to 17 counts of first-degree murder and 17 counts of attempted first-degree murder in connection to the Feb. 14, 2018, killing of 14 students and three staff members at his former school. Among the victims were 15-year-old Peter Wang, an Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps cadet who died while helping classmates escape, and 35-year-old Scott Beigel, a geography teacher who was shot dead while shepherding students to safety in his classroom.
The 12-person jury deliberated seven hours on Wednesday weighing whether to impose the death penalty on Cruz who attempted to convince the jury that he suffered from a mental illness during the February 14, 2018 massacre. The former student plead guilty last year.
The Jurors listened to a reading of the earlier cross-examination testimony of Paul Connor, an expert witness who told them about Cruz suffering from fetal alcohol spectrum disorder Wednesday afternoon.
The jury also asked to view the AR-15-style rifle, which was inoperable and given to them early Thursday morning prior to the jury reaching their verdict.
Cruz was not given the death penalty, but given a recommendation of life in prison without parole. Judge Elizabeth Scherer will give out Cruz’s sentence at a later date. Cruz’s defense attorneys would have a chance to convince her to override the jury’s death sentence verdict recommendations which is rarely granted.
The life sentence stunned family members who gathered in court to hear the reading of the verdict. Some of the jurors had their heads down as the verdict was read, indicating that they may have gone alone with the Juror foreman’s recommendations. The prosecutors immediately asked for a full sentencing hearing to allow the relatives of the murdered victims to speak. The hearing will take place November 1, 2022. The judge could override the life without parole sentence and sentence Cruz to death. The verdict does not equal the crime, said one of the parents at the hearing.
Cruz’s massacre was one of the most deadliest mass shootings to go to a trial; most mass shooters are killed by police officers, or they take their own lives during their attacks.
Source: Miami Herald contributed to the article.