Updated Oct 13, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Jury recommends life without parole for Parkland shooter

Nikolas Cruz and assistant public defender Melisa McNeill listen at the Broward County Courthouse on Oct. 13.

Nikolas Cruz and assistant public defender Melisa McNeill listen at the Broward County Courthouse on Oct. 13. Photo: Amy Beth Bennett/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

A 12-person jury on Thursday recommended life in prison without parole for Nikolas Cruz, the gunman responsible for the 2018 massacre that killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Driving the news: The death penalty was on the table for Cruz, but the jury would've had to reach that decision unanimously.

The latest: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said Thursday he believed Cruz should have received the death penalty and expressed disappointment in the jury's recommendation.

  • "I think that if you have a death penalty at all, that that is a case — where you're massacring those students, with premeditation, in utter disregard of basic humanity — that you deserve the death penalty," DeSantis said.

The big picture: Last October, Cruz pleaded guilty to all counts for carrying out the shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, which killed 14 students and three staff members.

  • Cruz pleaded guilty to 17 murder counts and 17 counts of attempted first-degree murder for carrying out the mass shooting.
  • The shooting in Parkland was the deadliest mass shooting at a U.S. high school.

Between the lines: The jury in the case considered whether aggravating circumstances of the shooting — like committing murders that were "especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel" — outweighed "mitigating factors" of Cruz's life, which is a step that's required to issue a death sentence in Florida.

  • Those factors included Cruz's admission of guilt, his biological mother's alleged drinking problem and his adoptive mother's alleged failure to get him proper psychiatric care.
  • At least one member of the jury found the aggravating circumstances did not outweigh the mitigating factors, rejecting the death penalty.

What they're saying: "We are beyond disappointed with the outcome today. This should have been the death penalty, one hundred percent. 17 people were brutally murdered," said Lori Alhadeff, whose 14-year-old daughter, Alyssa Alhadeff, was murdered in the shooting.

  • "I'm disgusted with our legal system. I'm disgusted with those jurors. I'm disgusted with the system," said Ilan Alhadeff, Alyssa's father. "That you can allow 17 dead and 17 others shot and wounded and not give the death penalty. What do we have the death penalty for?"
  • "I'm stunned. I'm devastated. There are 17 victims that did not receive justice today," Fred Guttenberg, father of 14-year-old victim Jaime Guttenberg, said. "This jury failed our families today."

What's next: Cruz will be officially sentenced to life without parole on Nov. 1. He will be in the custody of the Broward County Sherriff's Office until then.

  • The family of the deceased victims and the surviving victims have a right under Florida's Constitution to address Cruz in person.

Go deeper... Parkland survivors take Biden to task over gun

This story has been updated with additional information.

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