Jury Announces Verdicts for Parkland Shooter
Nikolas Cruz murdered 17 people at Parkland High School in 2018.
The killer was facing the death penalty for his crimes.
Jurors handed down their recommendation for life in prison.
Ron DeSantis and the Parkland families expressed outrage.
(NewsReady.com) – February 14, 2018, was a bright, sunny day in Parkland, Florida. Students were in their classes, excited to celebrate the day traditionally reserved for love. Nikolas Cruz shattered that day and dozens of lives when he walked onto campus and began murdering people. When he was through with the shooting, 17 were injured, and 17 others dead.
The jury in the sentencing phase against Cruz handed down their recommendations for how he should spend the remainder of his days, and the families were heartbroken over what they decided.
A Life Spared
Cruz pleaded guilty to 17 counts of murder in 2021. Still, the sentencing phase of the trial has lasted for weeks, and families were forced to sit through testimony about how their loved ones, including 14 children, were violently murdered. The prosecution went over aggravating factors they believed justified death sentences. Meanwhile, the defense team provided mitigating circumstances which they thought outweighed the aggravating factors.
On October 13, the jury foreman read their verdict: 17 recommendations for life without the possibility of parole for 17 counts of first-degree murder.
Some family members walked out of the courtroom upon hearing the verdicts; others fell into each other’s arms and sobbed. The judge set his sentencing date for November 1. Under Florida law, the judge cannot upgrade his sentence to death after a jury has not unanimously agreed on it.
Families Speak Out
After the verdicts were read, NBC 6 reported many of the families held a press conference and slammed the decisions by the jury. Tony Montalto, the father of 14-year-old Gina Montalto, asked how the mitigating factors could outweigh the aggravating ones. He pointed out how Cruz “sho[t] some victims more than once … pressing the barrel of his weapon to [Gina’s] chest.”
Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jaime died in the shooting, posted a long statement on Twitter, saying that the victims’ “loved ones and [their] families were again victimized by this verdict.” He explained nothing would have ever brought his family closure, but he thinks there has never been a clearer reason for the death penalty.
(1,23) Earlier today, the jury rendered a verdict. I am now free to write about how I feel and the impact of this trial on me. The first and most important thing to say is that the only victims coming out of this trial are Jaime Guttenberg, Alex Schachter, Joaquin Oliver, Alyssa pic.twitter.com/wt2HSe97KP
— Fred Guttenberg (@fred_guttenberg) October 13, 2022
Andrew Pollack lost his daughter, Meadow Pollack, in the massacre. He shared a video of Governor Ron DeSantis (R-FL) speaking out against the jury recommendation and said, “Amen Ron.”
Amen Ron https://t.co/hwtmJTb98T
— Andrew Pollack (@AndrewPollackFL) October 14, 2022
Jury Foreman Speaks Out
Jury Foreman Benjamin Thomas spoke to CBS Miami about the verdicts. He said he didn’t agree with the decision, but “it’s how the jury system works.” Ultimately, three jurors were holdouts. One of the jurors was a “hard no” because she believed Cruz was “mentally ill.”
The New York Times reported on a juror who believed Cruz was mentally ill sent a note to the judge, claiming she was “fair and unbiased” despite allegations from fellow jurors that she’d made up her mind before the trial began. She went on to say the deliberations were “very tense,” and the other jurors were “extremely unhappy” with her. After the trial was over, prosecutors filed a motion asking that they be able to interview jurors. According to the filing, one of the jurors called the Broward State Attorney’s Office afterward and asked to speak to Prosecutor Mike Satz. She alleged she was threatened by a fellow juror.
While the verdict was read, questions are still swirling.
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