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Parkland school shooter should be sentenced to life in prison without parole


Following dramatic statements from victims and victims’ families, a Florida judge is expected to formally sentence Parkland School shooter Nikolas Cruz to life in prison without parole on Wednesday for the 2018 campus massacre that killed 14 students and three staff members.

Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer is expected to follow the jury’s recommendation to spare the 24-year-old the death penalty, instead sentencing him to a life behind bars. Last month, in a 9-3 vote, a jury considered sending Cruz to death row, but Florida law says no less than a unanimity automatically transforms the sentence into life without parole.

A family hugs during the trial of Nikolas Cruz in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on October 13, 2022.Amy Beth Bennett/Pool/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP File

Prosecutors had requested the death penalty, while the defense had requested life in prison. The October 13 jury’s decision rocked the victims’ family members who were visibly upset by the verdict.

During the three-month sentenced trial, the defense argued that Cruz was mentally ill and that his condition led to the 2018 Valentine’s Day rampage in which he wielded a semi-automatic rifle in his old school, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Cruz pleaded guilty in October 2021 to 17 counts of murder.

Ilan Alhadeff, father of 14-year-old Alyssa Alhadeff, who was killed in the shooting, said in his victim impact statement on Wednesday that Cruz’s inevitable life sentence brings him little satisfaction. He deserved death, Alhadeff said.

“Allow me to show how angry and frustrated I am with the justice system. After 4 and a half grueling years, a broken justice system has failed to sentence the killer of my daughter and 16 others to death,” he said. “Do I see this as a responsibility? Absolutely not. Do we now have the closure? Let’s be clear, absolutely not. What I see is that the system values ​​the life of this animal over the 17 currently dead. Worse, we sent a message to the next killer there that the death penalty would not be applied to the killings. This is wrong and should be corrected immediately.

Sam Fuentes was shot in the leg and struck in the face with shrapnel during the massacre. She told the court on Wednesday that she saw Cruz kill two of her friends.

“You shot me in the leg. If you looked at me in the face, like I’m looking at you right now, you would see the scars from the hot shrapnel that got lodged there. Do you remember after you pulverized my classroom with bullets, standing in the doorway, looking inside to see the work you did? Do you remember my bruised, bloody little face staring at you? I could have sworn we we crossed our eyes,” she said.

“I will have to live with the consequences of this for the rest of my life. I will always have PTSD, depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts.

Fuentes continued, “You have given me and many others a lifetime of trauma, pain and suffering, long after you committed this crime and for what? You’re nobody now. You are not special. You have no more power. You will walk away from that and have the most mundane and pathetic existence, one that I only pray you suffer from.

Cruz wore a mask during the first part of the hearing, until Jennifer Guttenberg, the mother of victim Jaime Guttenberg, admonished the shooter during his victim impact statement.

“You shouldn’t be sitting there with a mask over your face. It’s disrespectful to hide your expressions behind your mask while we families are sitting here talking to you,” she told him.

Cruz wasn’t wearing a mask the next time the camera pans to his face, although it’s unclear who took it off.

Victoria Gonzalez spoke in court on Wednesday about the death of her boyfriend Joaquin Oliver, 17, who was fatally shot by the gunman.

Gonzalez said after the mass shooting she not only lost her best friend, but also her ability to love. She is now alone and finds it difficult to make real friendships because she is always looking over her shoulders.

Gonzalez was wearing Oliver’s shirt when she addressed Cruz and told him that he nearly blew his head off.

“I wish you had met Joaquin because he would have been your friend,” Gonzalez said. “He would have reached out to you. He would have loved you.

She added, “I’m sorry you never saw the love the world is capable of giving.”

Linda Beigel Schulman, mother of Scott Beigel, who taught school geography and coached cross-country, said her son saved students’ lives before the shooter took his.

Beigel Schulman said Wednesday that Cruz has “prison justice” ahead of him.

“You will spend the rest of your miserable life looking over your shoulder, worried about every minute of your day, of your life, and scared, fearing someone will take you out.”

On Tuesday, other survivors of the shooting and relatives of the victims had the chance to make impact statements before the sentence was officially announced.

Stacey Lippel, a teacher from Parkland who was shot and survived, told Cruz, “You don’t know me but you tried to kill me.”

“I will have a scar on my arm and the memory of you pointing your gun at me will be ingrained in my brain forever,” she said in court, looking Cruz in the eye.

She said she was left with feelings of horror and guilt.

“The horror of the memories of what you left behind and the guilt that I have left because I wish I could have done more to save my colleagues and students whom you killed,” she said.

Debbi Hixon, the widow of Chris Hixon, a teacher who ran into the school in an attempt to stop the shooter, told the shooter, “I hope your name and existence will be erased from society.”

Parents of Ben Wikander, a student who survived being shot in the back, abdomen and arm, have spoken of his excruciating pain and long road to recovery, saying he still has a long way to go .

“Whatever pain you experience in prison, it will unfortunately only be a fraction of what Ben endured,” said his father, Eric Wikander.

Max Schachter, the father of Parkland victim Alex Schachter, 14, argued that Cruz had received a series of mental health aids and called defense attorneys for claiming he had gone between the meshes of the net.

“There are so many people in this country who suffer from mental illness,” he said. “They don’t come out to torture and murder innocent people.”

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