Jurors tasked with deciding whether Nicolas Cruz, the Florida school shooter who killed 17 people in 2018, will receive the death penalty are expected to begin deliberations today.
Expelled student was 18 when he legally bought AR-15 rifle he once used 14 students and 3 staff members shot dead at Stoneman Douglas High School Valentine’s Day in Parkland.
Attorney General Mike Satz told the jury in Fort Lauderdale that Cruz should be sentenced to death because he was “hunting for his victim” after stalking him for seven minutes in a three-story school building.
The court heard he fired his AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle at close range at some of the victims and returned to the injured victims as they helplessly “killed them”.
He pointed to Cruz’s online articles and videos, where he spoke about his desire to kill and wrote: “No mercy, no problem, double tap. I’m going to kill…lots of people and children.”
Defense attorney Melissa McNeill said neither Cruz nor herself denied what he did, “he knew right from wrong, he chose the wrong one”.
But she said the former Stoneman Douglas student was “a broken, brain-damaged, mentally ill young man” destined to emerge from conception due to his biological mother’s heavy drinking and drug use during pregnancy.
She advocated for a life sentence without parole, assuring them that he would never be free again.
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Many of the victims’ parents, wives and family members heard closing arguments in court, with many weeping during the prosecutor’s statement.
The mother of a murdered 14-year-old girl fled the courtroom before sobbing loudly in the hallway.
The Cruz massacre was the deadliest mass shooting in American history.
The jury will only decide his sentence, and the death penalty requires a unanimous vote.
If jurors believe the prosecution’s aggravating factors (such as multiple deaths and planning) outweigh the defense’s mitigating factors (such as his biological mother’s alcoholism), they can vote for death.
They could also vote for life sentences out of mercy for Cruz.