Fort Lauderdale, Florida — Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz will be sentenced to life without parole for the 2018 murder of 17 people at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, after the jury said Thursday that it could not unanimously agree that he should be executed.
The jury’s recommendation came after seven hours of deliberations over two days, ending a three-month trial that included graphic videos, photos and testimony from the massacre and its aftermath, heart-wrenching testimony from victims’ family members and a tour of the still blood-spattered building.
Under Florida law, a death sentence requires a unanimous vote on at least one count. Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer will formally issue the sentence later.
Cruz, his hair unkempt, largely sat hunched over and stared at the table as the jury’s recommendations were read. Rumblings grew from the family section — packed with about three dozen parents, spouses and other relatives of the victims — as life sentences were announced. Many shook their heads, looked angry or covered their eyes.
Cruz, 24, pleaded guilty a year ago to murdering 14 students and three staff members and wounding 17 others on Feb. 14, 2018. Cruz said he chose Valentine’s Day to make it impossible for Stoneman Douglas students to celebrate the holiday ever again.
During the prosecution’s rebuttal case, Satz and his team argued that Cruz’s smooth movements with the gun and his ease in reloading helps show he does not have any neurological disorders, as claimed by his attorneys.
Lead defense attorney Melisa McNeill and her team have never disputed that Cruz committed a horrible crime, but they say his birth mother’s excessive drinking during pregnancy left him with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and put him on a path that led to the shooting.
The massacre is the deadliest mass shooting that has ever gone to trial in the U.S. Nine other people in the U.S. who fatally shot at least 17 people died during or immediately after their attacks by suicide or police gunfire. The suspect in the 2019 massacre of 23 at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, is awaiting trial.