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Nikolas Cruz sentencing: Jury selection begins today for a panel that will help decide whether the Parkland school shooter will face the death penalty


Following Cruz’s guilty pleas, the 12-member jury currently assembled for the punishment phase will be asked to decide whether or not to recommend his execution. Six to eight alternates must also be chosen, the judge told a hearing last week.

“There were 17 people killed, so there’s a history of 17 people being killed,” Assistant District Attorney Jeff Marcus told the court when explaining why the penalty phase could last until the fall. “And then there are 17 others who are considered to be aggravating factors in the case.”

Jurors are expected to unanimously agree that at least one aggravating factor — including concurrent capital felony charges to which Cruz pleaded guilty, or whether he knowingly created the risk of further deaths — exists among the 34 charges for then start discussing whether he should face the death penalty.

If that happens, they must be unanimous in recommending a death sentence, otherwise his sentence would necessarily be life imprisonment. If they recommend capital punishment, the final decision is still up to the judge.

Cruz confessed to police shortly after the shooting, according to a probable cause affidavit, but later pleaded not guilty. His lawyers later said he would change his guilty pleas if prosecutors removed the death penalty, but they never did. Nonetheless, he changed his position to guilty on all 34 counts, setting the stage for the penalty phase.

14 students and 3 faculty members were killed

On the afternoon of Feb. 14, 2018, then-19-year-old Cruz, who had been expelled from Marjory Stoneman Douglas, drove an Uber to his old high school, according to an overview of events that prosecutor Michael Satz recited on October 20 during the hearing in which Cruz pleaded guilty. Cruz had with him a gun bag with an AR-15 style rifle and a backpack containing gun magazines and a tactical vest, Satz said.

When he arrived, Cruz entered the high school’s three-story 1200 building, entered the east stairwell, and began loading the rifle. In doing so, a student entered the stairwell, Satz said.

“You better get out of here,” Cruz told the student, according to the prosecutor. “Something bad is about to happen.”

At around 2:21 p.m., Cruz opened fire in the hallway, Satz said, shooting students and teachers in hallways and classrooms as he walked through the building and through each floor. At one point, dust buffeted from the ceiling tiles by the gunfire set off the building’s fire alarm, sending students and teachers out of classrooms and into hallways.

Among those killed, 14 were students: Alyssa Alhadeff, 14; Martin Duque Anguiano, 14; Nicolas Dworet, 17; Jaime Guttenberg, 14; Luc Hoyer, 15; Cara Loughran, 14; Gina Montalto, 14; Joaquin Olivier, 17; Alaina Petty, 14; Meadow Pollack, 18; Helena Ramsay, 17; Alex Schachter, 14; Carmen Schentrup, 16; and Peter Wang, 14.

geography professor Scott Beigel, 35; wrestling coach Chris Hixon, 49; and assistant football coach Aaron Feis, 37, were also killed – each as they ran into danger or tried to help students to safety.

After the shooting, Cruz put down his gun, the remaining magazines and his tactical vest and fled, blending in at 2:27 p.m. with other students, Satz said. He was arrested that afternoon, about 3 miles from the school.

At the October plea hearing, Cruz answered “guilty” to each of the 34 charges against him before addressing the victims and their families in a brief statement to the court.

“I’m so sorry for what I did,” he said in part, “and I have to live with it every day.”

Cruz’s apology, however, did little to comfort the parent of a slain student, who called it “ridiculous”.

“I think he deserves as much luck as he gave my daughter and everyone else on February 14, 2018,” Gina Montalto’s father, Tony Montalto, said when asked about Cruz facing the death penalty. .

Cruz has previously been sentenced to 25 years in prison after pleading guilty to attacking a prison guard in November 2018.

Nikolas Cruz sentencing: Jury selection begins today for a panel that will help decide whether the Parkland school shooter will face the death penalty

Millions awarded to families of victims in civil cases

The impacts of the shooting reached far beyond Parkland, a small town in Florida about 80 km north of Miami. In the weeks that followed, survivors and loved ones of victims spoke out and confronted lawmakers, demanding more action to address gun violence in American schools.
Students from across the United States joined them, staging their own protests and school walkouts. This movement culminated just over a month after the massacre with March for Our Lives as hundreds of thousands of protesters taking part in hundreds of marches across the country called for gun control reform. “Never again,” became the protesters’ rallying cry.
Although the full effect of the move is difficult to quantify, a year after the massacre, at least 67 new laws aimed at gun safety have been enacted in 26 states, the Giffords Law Center to Prevent said at the time. Gun Violence.

But school shootings have continued, with some 130 recorded on US campuses with K-12 students from Parkland, according to CNN’s tally.

Nikolas Cruz sentencing: Jury selection begins today for a panel that will help decide whether the Parkland school shooter will face the death penalty
Yet the activism inspired by the Parkland shooting also persisted. Last month, on the fourth anniversary of the March for Our Lives on Washington, activists from the organization delivered “Thoughts and Prayers” on the National Mall using more than 1,100 body bags, the affiliate reported. from CNN WJLA. Each represented lives that the organization says have been lost in gun-related deaths since Parkland.
And the civil cases brought by the families of the Parkland victims have been resolved. The US Department of Justice has settled 40 civil cases stemming from the shooting for $127.5 million, it said in a statement last month, adding that the settlement “does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by the from the United States”. The FBI acknowledged after the shooting that it did not act on a tip about “(Cruz’s) potential to carry out a school shooting,” among other concerns.
Broward County Public Schools, the district that includes Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, announced in December that it would pay more than $26 million to 51 plaintiffs, including those who were injured and the families of the 17 people killed. .

“While we recognize that no amount of money can restore the integrity of these families, the school board hopes that this settlement will show our sincere commitment to the families, students, staff and faculty of MSD and the entire Broward County community,” the district interim said. said the Advocate General.

Meanwhile, Broward County Sheriff’s Deputy Scot Peterson, a school resource officer criticized for not confronting Cruz during the shooting, has pleaded not guilty to charges stemming from the mass shooting, including counts charges of criminal child neglect. A trial is scheduled for September.

CNN’s Denise Royal contributed to this report.

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