Broward County Sheriff's Office
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Jury spares Parkland, Fla., school shooter; panel rejects death penalty and recommends life in prison

Oct. 13, 2022
Nikolas Cruz pleaded guilty to fatally shooting 17 people at Marjory Stoneman High School on Feb. 14, 2018.

 A Florida jury has rejected a death sentence and recommended a life sentence for the man who shot 17 people to death more than four years ago at a high school in Parkland.

The South Florida Sun Sentinel reports that the jury deliberated for seven hours before deciding to spare the life of Nikolas Cruz. For a judge to impose a death sentence in Floirda, the jury's recommendation must be unanimous. The recommendation is binding, and Cruz is scheduled to be formally sentenced on Nov. 1.

Many family members of the shooting victims were present in court and expressed anger and disappointment over the jury's decision.

Cruz, 24, pleaded guilty last year to 17 counts of murder in the Feb. 14, 2018, shooting attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Fourteen students and three staff members were killed: Luke Hoyer, 15; Martin Duque, 14; Gina Montalto, 14; Alex Schachter, 14; Alaina Petty, 14; Alyssa Alhadeff, 14; Nicholas Dworet, 17; Helena Ramsay, 17; Chris Hixon, 49; Carmen Schentrup, 16; Aaron Feis, 37; Scott Beigel, 35; Meadow Pollack, 18; Cara Loughran, 14; Joaquin Oliver, 17; Jaime Guttenberg, 14; and Peter Wang, 15.

Cruz, a former Marjory Stoneman Douglas student who was 19 when he committed the murders, offered almost immediately to plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence. The Broward Public Defender’s Office, which represented him, argued repeatedly that accepting life over death would avoid the spectacle of a trial and the trauma of introducing the evidence.

Prosecutors rejected the offer, refusing to allow Cruz to choose his own fate.

Testimony in the death penalty hearing began in July. Defense attorneys depicted Cruz as “brain-damaged, broken and mentally ill,” and deserving of a life sentence, but undeserving of death.

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