The gunman responsible for the Parkland Florida school shooting massacre will be sentenced to life in prison – and be spared the death – sentence despite killing 17 people during the 2018 mass shooting.
Nikolas Cruz, 24, who killed 14 fellow Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School high school students and three staff members, looked pale inside the courtroom on Wednesday as the verdict was read.
After just a day of deliberations, which lasted for six hours, jurors returned a verdict recommending life in prison without parole, while a formal hearing for sentencing will take place next month, according to CNN.
“Justice was not served today,” said Linda Beigel Schulman, Marjory Stoneman geography teacher Scott Beigel.
“If this was not the most perfect death penalty case, then why do we have the death penalty at all?” Linda Beigel Schulman said. “There’s no doubt about the fact that the verdict should have been the death penalty.”
Parkland Shooter Spared Death Penalty Thanks To Florida Law Where Jurors Must Unanimously Recommend Execution
Cruz escaped the death penalty due to a Florida law stating jurors must unanimously recommend execution, leaving a life sentence the only option on the table.
Reuters had initially and erroneously reported that the jury recommended the death penalty for Cruz, however the outlet issued a correction shortly thereafter.
The sentencing recommendation comes on the heels of a three-month trial where prosecutors had argued Cruz’s crime was premeditated as well as cruel and heinous, which are necessary to establish a death sentence per state law.
While Cruz’s defense team had acknowledged the severity of his crimes, they did request that the jury consider mitigating factors such as lifelong struggles with mental health disorders, reportedly stemming from his biological mother’s drug abuse during pregnancy.
Prosecutors Painted Cruz As Cold, Brutal Murderer, Defense As A “Broken” Kid At Sentencing Trial
The courtroom was an emotion scene, with families and friends of victims tearing up as the judge read all 17 names in the order they were shot by Cruz as the life sentence was recommended.
During the sentencing trial, which ended on Tuesday, prosecutors painted Cruz as a cold and calculating murderer. Meanwhile, Cruz’s defense attorney claimed he was just a “broken, brain-damaged kid” who was a victim himself of his mother’s drinking and drug use.
BREAKING: A jury has recommended life in prison without the possibility of parole – instead of the death penalty – on all counts against Parkland massacre gunman Nikolas Cruz. pic.twitter.com/bqYLWpWknK
— Pop Crave (@PopCrave) October 13, 2022
During the sentencing recommendation on Wednesday, the jury had asked for a readback of two testimonies as well as the AR-15 that Cruz used in the shootings.
Jury Requested To See AR-15 Cruz Used In Massacre, Which He Legally Purchased In 2017
The Broward Sheriff’s Office objected to providing the jury with the firearm for “security reasons,” however it was ultimately decided that the gun would be shown sans firing pen, according to CNN.
In 2017, Cruz legally purchased the lightweight semi-automatic rifle, which was previously shown to jurors during witness testimony in July.
The jury had also been shown photos Broward Sheriff’s Sgt. Gloria Crespo took of the dead bodies of five students as well as teacher who were killed by Cruz on the third-floor of the school, all having been shot at short range.
The Parkland, Florida massacre remains the deadliest mass shooting that’s ever gone to trial in the history of the United States, with the nine other gunmen who fatally shot a minimum of 17 people died during or immediately after the shootings by suicide or police gunfire.