Jury deciding between ‘life or death’ for Parkland shooter


FILE – Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz is shown at the defense table during jury selection in the penalty phase of his trial at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Tuesday, June 28, 2022. The deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history ever to make it to trial is finally about to go before a jury. Opening statements are scheduled Monday, July 15, in Cruz’s penalty trial. (Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP, Pool, File)

(NewsNation) — The fate of Parkland School shooter Nikolas Cruz is now in the hands of the jury who will decide whether he will receive life in prison or the death penalty.

Cruz admitted to killing 17 people at a Florida high school in 2018. Throughout the months-long trial, prosecutors have argued Cruz was cold and calculated in his plot to kill.

“What he wanted to do, what his plan was and what he did, was to murder children at school and their caretakers,” said lead prosecutor Michael Satz in his closing argument.

The jury and families in the courtroom listened to the chilling details of each person killed and often emotional testimony from those who survived.

Jennifer Montalto holds a picture of her daughter, Gina, before giving her victim impact statement during the penalty phase of the trial of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022. Gina Montalto was killed in the 2018 shootings. Cruz previously plead guilty to all 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the 2018 shootings. (Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel via AP, Pool)

But Cruz’s attorneys have argued he has developmental issues, arguing Cruz’s birth mother drank excessively when she was pregnant, leaving the confessed shooter with brain damage.

“Sentencing Nicholas to death will not change that. It will not bring back those 17 people. Sentencing Nicholas to death will literally serve no purpose at all other than vengeance,” said defense attorney Melisa McNeil.

Cruz’s attorneys have painted the jury’s decision as black or white.

“It’s a binary choice here, it’s either life or death,” said defense attorney Robert Pelier.

Pelier thinks at least some members of the jury will focus on Cruz being just 24 years old.

“That’s going to be front and center, that’s the dispute that I think will be had in that jury room,” Pelier said. “…youth, age, all these things can play a role. It touches a certain nerve to certain jurors.”

Pelier told NewsNation a decision in this case will undoubtedly set a precedent for any potential cases down the road. But he thinks this jury is taking this seriously.

The jury will reconvene at 7:30 a.m. Thursday.

The decision for a death penalty would need to be unanimous.

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