A decision has been reached in the sentencing trial of Nikolas Cruz, whichat Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., in 2018. The jury began deliberating on Wednesday and its decision is expected to be announced in court at 10:30 a.m. ET.
It comes more than four years after the deadliest US mass shooting ever.
Cruz, now 24, pleaded guilty a year ago to murdering 14 students and three staff and injuring 17 others. The jury must decide between life imprisonment or the death penalty. A decision on the death penalty would have to be unanimous from all 12 jurors, and then the judge would make the final decision.
On Tuesday, prosecutor Mike Satz and defense attorney Melisa McNeill painted for the 12 jurorsabout his mental state and what prompted his attack at school on Valentine’s Day.
Satz said Cruz was motivated by antisocial personality disorder, saying he deserved a death sentence because he “hunted his victims” as he stalked a three-story classroom for seven minutes. He fired his AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle at some victims at point-blank range and returned to injured victims when they were helpless “to finish them off”, he said.
Satz pointed to the shooter’s writings and internet videos, where he spoke about his murderous desires — including, “No mercy, no questions, double tap. I’m going to kill a… ton of people and children.”
“They say what you write and say is a window into your soul,” Satz said as the three-month trial drew to a close. The killings, he said, “were relentlessly heinous, atrocious and cruel”.
McNeill said that neither the shooter nor herself had ever denied what he had done and that “he knew right from wrong and he chose the wrong”. But she said the former Stoneman Douglas pupil was ‘a broken, brain-damaged and mentally ill young man’, condemned from conception by his birth mother’s heavy drinking and drug abuse during pregnancy . She pleaded for a life sentence without the possibility of parole, assuring them that he would never be released again.
“It’s the right thing to do. Mercy is what makes us civilized. Giving Nikolas mercy will say more about who you are than it ever says about him,” McNeill told the jury.
During closing arguments, scores of parents, wives and family members of the victims filled their section of the courtroom, many of them crying during Satz’s presentation. The mother of a murdered 14-year-old girl fled the courtroom before bursting into tears in the hallway. Minutes earlier, the families had greeted each other with smiles, handshakes and hugs.
Satz meticulously went through the murders, reminding jurors how each victim died and how the shooter looked some in the eye before shooting them multiple times.
“They all knew what was going on, what was going to happen,” Satz said.
As he had done during the trial, Satz released security footage of the shooting and showed photos. He spoke of the death of a 14-year-old girl. The shooter shot him, then returned to shoot him, putting his gun to his chest.
“Directly on his skin. She was shot four times and she died,” Satz said. He then noted a YouTube comment, which 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.
His voice cracking, Satz concluded his two-hour presentation by reciting the names of the victims, then saying that for their murders “the appropriate sentence for Nikolas Cruz is the death penalty.”
McNeill acknowledged the horror inflicted by the shooter and said jurors had every right to be angry, but said: “How many times have we made decisions based solely on anger and have it- we regretted?”
She focused on her belief that her birth mother, Brenda Woodard’s heavy drinking during pregnancy left her with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. She said this explains her 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 the wombs of our mothers,” McNeill said, adding that Woodard “poisoned him in the stomach”. . He was doomed in the womb.”
She said Cruz’s increasingly erratic personality left her widowed adoptive mother, Lynda Cruz, overwhelmed. He punched holes in walls by losing video games, destroying furniture and killing animals. Visitors described the house as “a war zone,” McNeill said.
She pleaded with jurors to give her a life sentence, telling them that even if they are the only ones who resist, they should not fear the reaction of families or the community.
Gesturing to the families of the victims, she said: “There is no punishment you could ever inflict on Nikolas Cruz that would make him suffer as much as these people have suffered and as much as they will continue to suffer every day. “
The Parkland Massacre is the deadliest mass shooting ever in the United States. The suspect in the 2019 massacre of 23 people in El Paso, Texas, Walmart is awaiting trial.
The jurors made ain August, retracing the marksman’s steps through the three-story freshman building, known as “Building 12”. During the visit, they saw dried blood, bullet holes and .
After they left, a group of journalists —– was cleared to a much faster public first view.
“It was really frozen in time,” Murray said.