Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz sentenced to life in prison for 2018 high school massacre
( NYPost )
Parkland killer Nikolas Cruz was given 17 life sentences, one for each of his victims, after he comitted one of the worst mass slaughters in the nation’s history on Tuesday.
Cruz mercilessly killed 14 students and 3 teachers on Valentine’s Day in 2018 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School with an AR-15 rifle — spraying defenseless victims with bullets and in some cases circling back to finish off the wounded.
Bound by a recent jury verdict that opted against a death sentence for the atrocity, Judge Elizabeth Scherer formalized Cruz’s fate in front of a gallery packed with the seething relatives of his victims.
Shattered family members had vehemently lobbied for Cruz to be executed, and expressed their anger and disbelief at the jury’s decision during two days of victim impact statements this week.
Several tearful speakers said they were tortured by the reality that Cruz will be able to see out his days, while their loved ones were taken from them permanently.
Addressing the court, Meghan Petty told of the anguish of dealing with her 14-year-old sister, Alaina, being fatally gunned down during the assault.
“This entire ordeal has pushed me to my emotional, physical and mental limits,” the sibling tearfully told the court Tuesday.
“It will continue to do so for the rest of my life. Even more so now that he has escaped being punished to the fullest extent of the law as I believe he should have been, knowing that he gets to live out the rest of his natural life. Something Alaina doesn’t get to do.”
Patricia Oliver’s son, Joaquin, was initially struck in the leg and tried to crawl to safety before Cruz shot him in the head.
The anguished mother glared at his defense lawyers Tuesday in lamenting the jury’s verdict.
“If this, the worst mass shooting to go to trial, does not deserve the death penalty, what does?” she said.
Three of the 12 jurors in the case voted for life in prison.
Prosecutors had argued during the sentencing trial that Cruz plotted the carnage in minute detail and that his crime plainly warranted execution.
A parade of heartbroken relatives of those killed recounted their searing pain to jurors, with some testimony even drawing tears from Cruz’s lawyers.
The killer’s defense team contended that his traumatic upbringing was a mitigating factor in the case and that a life term was appropriate.
They asserted at trial that Cruz, who was born to a prostitute and put up for adoption as an infant, suffered pre-natal brain damage due to her constant drinking while pregnant.
Prosecutors sought to establish that Cruz was fully cognizant while committing the crime, stressing that he studied methods used during prior mass shooting while planning the attack.
In August, drawings and writings Cruz made inside his jail cell were released, revealing he was preparing to die.
Cruz wrote in one message: “I do not want life please help me go to death row.”
In another he said: “I do not want to be bothered by anyone or anything, I can’t wait to die.”
The life sentence drew condemnation from several high profile observers, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
“I think that — if you have a death penalty at all — this is a case where you’re massacring those students with premeditation, in utter disregard for basic humanity, that you deserve the death penalty,” DeSantis said after the jury’s decision.