Jurors begin to deliberate on Parkland shooter’s sentence | 104.1 WIKY
By Brian Ellsworth
MIAMI (Reuters) – After three months of testimony and arguments from lawyers, 12 jurors on Wednesday began deliberating on whether the man who killed 17 people at a Florida high school on St. Valentin in 2018 should be sentenced to death.
Nikolas Cruz, 24, pleaded guilty last year to premeditated murder at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, about 50 miles north of Fort Lauderdale. It is one of the deadliest mass shootings in United States history.
The prosecution, which is seeking the death penalty, and the defence, which is arguing for the only other option available – life in prison – presented their closing arguments at his trial on Tuesday.
“It is now your duty to make a decision as to the appropriate sentence that should be given to Nikolas Jacob Cruz for each of the 17 counts of first degree murder charged in the indictment,” the circuit judge said. of Broward County, Elizabeth Scherer, to the 12 jurors. Wednesday, emphasizing that “a human life is at stake”.
After hearing his instructions, the jurors were escorted out of the courtroom to begin sequestered deliberations. Survivors of the shooting were among the spectators in the courtroom.
Scherer had advised jurors on Tuesday to bring “at least a few days” worth of clothing and medication to have with them during deliberations.
Under Florida law, a jury must be unanimous in its decision to recommend that a judge sentence Cruz to execution.
Scherer took about an hour Wednesday to instruct jurors on the law governing their decision. This forces them to decide if there were aggravating factors such as having committed a particularly heinous crime, and if they outweigh any mitigating circumstances such as Cruz’s lifelong mental struggles.
The penalty trial began in July and included testimony from survivors of the shooting as well as cellphone videos in which terrified students screamed for help or spoke in low voices as they hid. The defense called witnesses who testified about Cruz’s mental health issues stemming from his birth mother’s drug addiction during pregnancy.
Cruz was 19 and had been kicked out of Marjory Stoneman Douglas at the time of the massacre. In his guilty plea, he said he was “really sorry” and asked to be given a chance to help others.
(Reporting by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Donna Bryson and Deepa Babington)