A Florida jury recommended life in prison for gunman Nikolas Cruz who killed 17 people at a Parkland school in 2018.
Jurors could not unanimously agree that the death penalty should be imposed, despite the prosecution demanding that he be executed and arguing that the deadly attack was cold, calculated and meticulously planned.
Relatives of some victims shook their heads in court when the jury rejected the prosecutors’ call.
Following the life sentence decision, Lori Alhadeff, whose daughter Alyssa was killed, said: “We are extremely disappointed with today’s result.
“This should have been the death penalty, 100%. Seventeen people were brutally murdered on February 14, 2018. I sent my daughter to school and she was shot eight times.
“I’m so disappointed and frustrated with this result. I can’t understand. I just don’t understand.”
Cruz, 24, pleaded guilty to premeditated murder at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last year.
The expelled student was 19 when he used a semi-automatic assault rifle to kill 14 students and three staff members in one of the worst school shootings in America.
After three months of attorneys’ testimony and arguments, 12 jurors reached their recommendation after seven hours of deliberation in two days.
In Florida, a death sentence could only have been handed down if the jurors had unanimously recommended Cruz’s execution.
District Judge Elizabeth Scherer will formally deliver the sentence at a later date.
Cruz said he chose Valentine’s Day to prevent Stoneman Douglas students from ever celebrating the holidays again.
During the three-month sentencing trial, the prosecution argued that Cruz’s crime was both premeditated and heinous and cruel, details among the criteria set by Florida law for deciding a death sentence.
Her defense team recognized the gravity of her crimes, but asked jurors to consider mitigating factors, including lifelong mental health disorders resulting from her biological mother’s substance abuse during pregnancy.
Cruz apologized for his crimes and asked to be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole to devote his life to helping others.
The sentencing process included testimony from shooting survivors and footage of students yelling for help or whispering as they hid during the attack.
Chief Attorney Mike Satz focused on Cruz’s eight months of planning and the seven minutes he haunted the school hallways, firing 140 rounds from his AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle before escaping.
Cruz’s principal attorney, Melisa McNeill, and her team didn’t question the horror of his actions, but focused on the belief that his birth mother’s heavy alcoholism during pregnancy left him with a spectrum disorder. fetal alcohol.
Their experts said her worrying and sometimes violent behavior, which began at the age of two, was misdiagnosed as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, meaning she never received the right treatment.
Mr. Satz and his team argued that Cruz did not suffer from fetal alcohol damage but did suffer from antisocial personality disorder.
Their witnesses said Cruz simulated brain damage during testing and was able to control his actions, but he chose not to.
Prosecutors also played several videos of Cruz discussing the crime with their mental health experts during which he talked about his planning and motivation.
The defense claimed during cross-examination that Cruz was sexually assaulted and raped by a 12-year-old neighbor when he was nine.
The massacre led to renewed calls for stricter gun control in the United States, which gained further support this year following the killing of 19 children and two teachers. at a school in Uvalde, Texas and another shooting in a supermarket in Buffalo, New Yorkwhich claimed the lives of 10 people.