Nov 2, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Parkland shooter sentenced to life in prison without parole

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz in a courtroom in Fort Lauderdale in October 2022.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz in a courtroom in Fort Lauderdale in October 2022. Photo: Amy Beth Bennett/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

The gunman responsible for the 2018 massacre that killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Wednesday was formally sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Driving the news: Nikolas Cruz, 24, shackled and wearing a red jail jumpsuit, watch as Judge Elizabeth Scherer sentenced him to 17 life terms and an additional 17 for the attempted murders of those he wounded, per AP.

  • The formal sentencing came after two days during which parents, wives, siblings and friends of slain victims and some of the surviving addressed Cruz face to face.

Why it matters: Several families of the victims, along with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) had expressed disappointment with a 12-person jury's decision to recommend life in prison instead of the death penalty.

  • "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 after the jury's recommendation last month.

Catch up quick: Last October Cruz pleaded guilty to all counts related to the deadliest mass shooting at a U.S. high school, including 17 murder counts and 17 counts of attempted first-degree murder.

  • During his trial last month, the jury unanimously agreed Cruz was eligible for the death penalty but at least one juror rejected recommending it after finding that aggravating circumstances of the shooting did not outweigh "mitigating factors" of Cruz's life.
  • The aggravating circumstances the jury considered included committing murders that were "especially heinous, atrocious or cruel," while the mitigating factors were 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.

What they're saying: The family members of victims had a right under Florida's Constitution to address Cruz in person during his sentencing.

  • Max Schachter, father of 14-year-old victim Alex Schachter, criticized Cruz' defense argument that he did not receive proper psychiatric care before committing the massacre.
  • "The problem was not that he didn't receive services or medication, the problem was that none of it worked," Schachter said Tuesday during a hearing after listing the mental health services Cruz had received.
  • "It is such a disservice to people that are struggling with mental illness to use that as a mitigator for what he did. There are so many people in this country who suffer from mental illness — they're not going out and torturing and murdering people."
  • "This wasn't somebody who fell through the cracks, or got lost in the system. They tried, but they could not change his determination to inflict pain upon anything he touched, whether it was animals or humans. He is a sociopath that does not deserve to live amongst us. That creature has no redeemable value."

The big picture: Judge Scherer could not overrule the jury’s recommendation of life in prison for Cruz.

  • "I want to thank the family members for the privilege of learning about each and every one of your loved ones," Scherer said before the official sentencing Wednesday. "I can tell you they will not be forgotten."
  • It was Scherer's first death penalty case, and both the prosecution and the defense disagreed with decisions she made during the jury selection process in April, according to the New York Times.

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