A jury will reach a decision on whether the Parkland school shooter should receive the death penalty


The decision was reached in the sentencing process of Nikolas Cruz, who he shot 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., in 2018. The jury began deliberating Wednesday and is expected to announce its decision in court at 10:30 a.m. ET.

It comes more than four years after the deadliest US mass shooting ever brought to justice.

Cruz, now 24, pleaded guilty a year ago to murdering 14 students and three staff members and injuring 17 others.

Prosecutor Mike Satz and defense attorney Melisa McNeill painted for the 12 jurors Tuesday competition pictures about his mental state and what led to his attack at school on Valentine’s Day.

Satz said Cruz was driven by antisocial personality disorder and argued he deserved the death penalty because he “hunted down his victims” as he walked through the three-story classroom for seven minutes. He fired his AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle at several victims at close range and returned to the wounded victims as they lay helpless “to recharge them,” he said.

Satz pointed to the gunman’s online writings and videos where he talked about his murderous urges — including: “No mercy, no questions, double tap. I’m going to kill … a ton of people and children.”

“They say that what a person writes and says is a window to their soul,” Satz said as the three-month trial neared its conclusion. The murders, he said, “were unrelentingly heinous, vicious and cruel.”

Family members in court
From left: Abby Hoyer, Tom and Gena Hoyer and Michael Schulman react during the reading of jury instructions in the penalty phase of the trial of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on October 12, 2022. In the shooting in 2018 Hoyer’s son Luke and Schulman’s son Scott Beigel were killed.

Amy Beth Bennett/AP

McNeill said neither the shooter nor she ever denied what he did and that he “knew right from wrong and made the wrong decision.” But she said the former Stoneman Douglas student is a “broken, mentally ill, brain-damaged young man,” doomed from conception by his birth mother’s heavy drinking and drug use during pregnancy. She argued for a life sentence without parole and assured them she would never walk free again.

“It’s the right thing to do. Mercy is what makes us civilized. Giving Nikolas mercy says more about who you are than him,” McNeill told the jury.

During closing arguments, a large number of parents, wives and family members of the victims packed a section of the courtroom, many of them crying during Satz’s presentation. The mother of a murdered 14-year-old girl ran from the courtroom before breaking into loud sobs in the hallway. Only a few minutes before, the families had greeted each other with smiles, handshakes and hugs.

Satz carefully went through the murders, reminding jurors how each victim died and how the gunman looked some in the eye before shooting them multiple times.

“Everybody knew what was going on, what was going to happen,” Satz said.

As during the trial, Satz played security videos of the shooting and showed photos. He was talking about the death of a 14-year-old girl. The gunman shot her and then returned to shoot her again, putting the gun to her chest.

“Right on her skin. She was shot four times and she died,” Satz said. He then recorded a YouTube comment jurors saw during the trial in which Cruz said, “I don’t mind shooting a girl in the chest.”

“He did exactly that,” Satz said.

Satz, his voice breaking, ended his two-hour presentation by reciting the names of the victims before saying that “the appropriate punishment for Nikolas Cruz is the death penalty” for their murders.

Acknowledging the horror the shooter caused, McNeill said jurors had every right to be angry, but said, “How many times have we made a decision based solely on anger and regretted it?”

She focused on her belief that his birth mother Brenda Woodard’s heavy drinking during her pregnancy caused him to have Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. She said it accounted for his bizarre, disturbing and sometimes violent behavior from the age of 2.

“There is no time in our lives when we are more vulnerable to the will and whims of another human being than when we are growing and developing in our mothers’ wombs,” McNeill said, adding that Woodard “poisoned him in the womb.” He was doomed in the womb.’

She said Cruz’s increasingly erratic personality left his widowed adoptive mother, Lynda Cruz, devastated. He punched holes in walls while playing video games, destroyed furniture and killed animals. Visitors described the house as a “war zone,” McNeill said.

She pleaded with jurors to give him a life sentence, telling them that even if they were the only supporters, they should not worry about the reaction of the families or the community.

Pointing to the families of the victims, she said, “There is no sentence you can give Nikolas Cruz that will make him suffer as much as these people have and will continue to suffer every day.”

The Parkland massacre is the deadliest mass shooting ever brought to justice in the US. Nine other people in the US who have fatally shot at least 17 people died during or immediately after their attacks by suicide or police shootings. The suspect in the 2019 El Paso, Texas Walmart massacre of 23 is awaiting trial.

The jurors did a a rare visit to the site of the massacre in August while following the shooter’s footsteps through the three-story freshman building known as “Building 12.” During the visit, they saw dried blood, bullet holes and scattered rose petals.

After they left, a group of journalists— including CBS Miami’s Joan Murray — was enabled for a much faster first public view.

“It was really frozen in time,” Murray said.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here