Parkland shooter faces life in prison


Palm Beach Post

“Nikolas Cruz, the Parkland shooter, during trial.”

On Feb. 14, 2018, Florida endured one of its most horrific events that made history. 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz opened fire on students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in the Miami suburban town of Parkland, Florida. Cruz, the former student, murdered 17 people and injured 17 others.

Cruz was recently expelled from the high school for disciplinary reasons and was enrolled at another high school in the same district. It was unclear how many weapons Cruz had. Still, the one he was believed to have used was an AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle with multiple magazines on hand. After terrorizing and harming the high school in less than four minutes, Cruz ran from the scene with a group of escaping students and was arrested roughly twenty minutes later. Cruz was charged with 17 counts of first-degree murder and 17 counts of attempted murder.

The 17 lives that were lost on Feb. 14, 2018, include Alyssa Alhadeff (14), Scott Beigel (35), Martin Duque (14), Nicholas Dworet (17), Aaron Feis (37), Jaime Guttenberg (14), Chris Hixon (49), Luke Hoyer (15), Cara Loughran (14), Gina Montalto (14), Joaquin Oliver (17), Alaina Petty (14), Meadow Pollack (18), Helena Ramsay (17), Alex Schachter (14), Carmen Schentrup (16) and Peter Wang (15).

The 17 lives that were injured and survived on Feb 14, 2018, include Ashley Baez, William Olson, Keshava Mangapuram, Justin Colton, Alexander Dworet, Genesis Valentin, Daniela Menscal, Samantha Grady, Samantha Fuentes, Isabel Chequer, Samantha Mayor, Benjamin Wikander, Madeline Wilford, Marian Kabachenko, Stacey Lippel, Anthony Borges and Kyle Laman.

Most trials take several months or even a year before a date is set to begin the trial. As the day approached Cruz’s initial trial, the world was shut down by the COVID-19 outbreak. Due to these factors, his trial was pushed back several times. Cruz’s trial began on July 18, 2022, and a verdict was finally reached on Oct. 13, 2022.

The now 24-year-old became one of the only successful criminals, if not the first, to declare his horrific actions were based on his upbringing. There was discussion in the courtroom that Cruz would be given the death penalty. However, his lawyers argued he had a rough upbringing, including allegations that his biological mother “abused drugs and alcohol while pregnant.” Essentially, Cruz believes his acts were due to the mental illness he suffers from due to his mother’s actions while pregnant. Cruz’s attorneys urged jurors to spare his life, as he is a “brain-damaged, broken, mentally ill person through no fault of his own.” Among the 12 jurors, it was unanimously voted on life in prison without the possibility of parole.

According to The Washington Post, “The twelve-member jury deliberated for seven hours before reaching their decision in the deadliest U.S. mass shooting case to go to trial.”

The sentence finalizes an emotional three-month trial where the victim’s relatives and survivors recounted the Valentine’s Day massacre in painful detail. Despite finally receiving closure to the aching day, the sentence emerged many outbreaks from families and survivors in the courtroom.

As the verdicts were being read, many victims’ parents shook their heads. Several family members lashed out at the jurors, accusing them of too quickly buying into the defense’s argument that Cruz had a mental illness.

In 2018, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed a bill imposing a 21-year-old legal age requirement for gun purchases, a three-day waiting period on all gun transactions and allowed some school staff to arm themselves. As a result of Cruz’s actions, this was the first time in 30 years that Florida had passed any gun control measures.

Due to speculation and a wide disagreement among the community, Cruz’s case may change legal actions in Florida. Until 2016, Florida allowed judges to impose a death sentence if most voters agreed. However, now a vote of anything less than 12-0 means an automatic life sentence without the possibility of parole.

“The Legislature will next year consider changing the law it passed after a pair of court decisions rejected the old law,” said Ed Brodsky, President of the Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association.

With Cruz finally being sentenced, some justice and closure have been restored to the victims’ families and survivors. However, it is essential not to forget the shooting of Parkland, which has become the deadliest high school shooting in America.

If you are interested, one of the most well-informed articles regarding the initial attack on Parkland is listed here. Another well-informed article regarding the trial is listed here.