A US jury on Thursday refused to seek the death penalty for Nicholas Cruzwho killed 17 people at his former Florida high school on February 14, 2018, and opted for life in prison without the possibility of parole.
After deliberating all day on Wednesday and briefly on Thursday, the jury decided that Nicholas Cruz24, should receive life in prison for the murders of 14 students and three staff members at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
The request for the death penalty for the young man, who had pleaded guilty last year, had to be unanimous. But one or more of the 12 jurors found it unwarranted due to extenuating circumstances.
During the verdict reading, Cruz, dressed in a striped sweater and oversized glasses, stared blankly toward the defense table as relatives of the victims in the public area shook their heads in disbelief.
Many of those people cried as they left the courtroom and hugged each other for comfort.
“I couldn’t be more disappointed by what happened today,” said Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter Jaime was one of the students killed in the Valentine’s Day attack four years ago.
“I am stunned. I am devastated,” she added. “There are 17 victims who have not received justice today. This jury has failed our families today.”
The jury’s decision puts an end to a trial that began almost six months ago with the election of its members, a particularly tough process for the relatives of the victims who relived the horror of the massacre through the testimonies of witnesses, recordings of the shooting, photographs and expert analysis.
In his closing argument Tuesday, the lead prosecutor in the case, Michael Satz, had called for the death penalty for the defendant, calling the shooting a “systematic massacre” planned months in advance.
For long minutes, Satz re-described Cruz’s deadly journey on February 14, 2018: how he had arrived at his old school, how he had killed 17 people and injured 17 others, before fleeing the place, hiding among the evacuees. of the building, and how the police had stopped him shortly after on the street.
a difficult childhood
Cruz’s lead attorney, Melisa McNeill, had focused her strategy on presenting her client’s traumatic childhood as a mitigating circumstance.
According to her, the defendant was born with a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, caused by his mother’s heavy alcohol consumption during pregnancy, and later grew up in a troubled home where his adoptive mother also began to drink.
That childhood and youth caused the young man mental problems that were never properly diagnosed, McNeill had argued Tuesday, before asking the jury to spare Cruz’s life.
“I was doomed from the womb and in a civilized and humane society, do we kill people who are brain damaged, mentally ill and broken?” he had said.
The Parkland massacre shocked the country and revived the debate on gun control, since Cruz was able to legally buy the rifle with which he perpetrated the massacre, despite his psychiatric history.
On March 24, 2018, a march led by young survivors and parents of victims brought together 1.5 million people across the country, the largest demonstration ever held in the United States in favor of greater gun control.
Congress has not passed any significant reform since then, and gun sales have continued to rise.
The United States has suffered several bloody shootings in recent months, including the one that left 19 children and two adults dead in May at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.
Following those murders, a modest federal law was passed that provides for increased funding for school safety and mental health.
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