Fort Lauderdale, FL – A Florida jury opted on Thursday not to give the death penalty to the gunman who fatally shot 17 people at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, and instead sentenced the killer to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The trial to determine whether special circumstances warranted the death penalty started on July 18 and the jury’s verdict was read on Oct. 13 in a packed courtroom of visibly distraught family members of the high school students and staff who were gunned down in the 2018 Valentine’s Day massacre by a then-19-year-old former student, NBC News reported.
Prosecutors sought the death penalty for the gunman, but the jury had to reach a unanimous decision in order to give the gunman that sentence.
The jury did find aggravating factors that could warrant the death sentence, but ultimately decided that the aggravating factors did not outweigh the mitigating circumstances, NBC News reported.
Mitigating factors highlighted by the defense included his birth mother’s alcohol use, his adoptive parents’ failure to get him mental health care, and his willingness to accept responsibility for the Parkland massacre.
So, the jury recommended that the mass killer serve life without the possibility for parole in all cases.
The decision meant the jury couldn’t unanimously agree that the teen gunman should be executed for even one of his Parkland victims, NBC News reported.
Family members in the gallery were visibly shaken and many were sobbing.
Under Florida law, Judge Elizabeth Scherer cannot overrule the jury’s verdict, according to NBC News.
The judge delayed the official sentencing until Nov. 1 in order to give the surviving victims of the Parkland shooting a chance to say what they could not during victim impact statements ahead of the verdict.
“We are beyond disappointed with the outcome today. This should have been the death penalty 100 percent,” Lori Alhadeff, whose daughter Alyssa was murdered by the Parkland school shooter, told reporters after the verdict was read
“I sent my daughter to school and she was shot eight times. I am so beyond disappointed and frustrated with this outcome. I just don’t understand this,” Lori Alhadeff said.
Her husband agreed, NBC News reported.
“The jurors let us down,” Ilan Alhadeff said.
“I am disgusted with our legal system. I am disgusted with those jurors,” the father said. “I pray that that animal suffers every day of his life in jail, and he should have a short life.”
So far it doesn’t sound like Nikolas Cruz will be sentenced to death for killing 17 students and staff in Parkland, FL.
The jury gave him life in prison for the first 6 counts, including for Alyssa Alhadeff.
This was her mother’s reaction. pic.twitter.com/yLKOfExPiq
— Kyla Galer (@kylagaler) October 13, 2022
The Parkland massacre was the deadliest mass shooting in the United States to go before a jury, WPBF reported.
Thinking of the Parkland victims as the verdict of the shooter is being read
— Wu-Tang is for the Children (@WUTangKids) October 13, 2022
The now-23-year-old mass killer pleaded guilty in October of 2021 to 17 counts of first-degree murder in court and four charges related to his attack on a guard at the Broward County jail subsequent to the Feb. 14, 2018 school shooting.
His shooting spree inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School left 17 students and faculty dead and another 17 wounded after the expelled student opened fire with a legally-purchased AR-15.
While he was in jail awaiting trial for the school shootings, the gunman attacked a Broward sheriff’s deputy and the incident was captured on surveillance video.