(Fort Lauderdale) Nearly five years after the tragedy, relatives of the 17 people murdered by Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz were able to confront him face-to-face on Wednesday in the second day of a hearing on the sentence at the end of which he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The defendant, chained and dressed in a red prisoner’s uniform, watched Judge Elizabeth Scherer pronounce the sentence without showing any emotion. She sentenced him to serve 17 consecutive life sentences for the February 14, 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in suburban Fort Lauderdale. In addition to his sentence, there are also 17 convictions for attempted murder of injured victims.
Judge Scherer had no other choice when it came to sentencing since the jury had decided to sentence him to death by a majority of nine to three. However, Florida law requires unanimity to impose the death penalty.
Questioned by the judge, Nikolas Cruz confirmed that he was on medication, but that he was able to fully understand what was playing out in front of him.
The judge praised the courage of the families and injured victims who came to testify. She praised their strength, grace and patience.
“I know you’re going to get through this because you can count on each other,” she said.
The judge’s voice cracked as she handed down the first life sentence, but later grew in strength and volume as she scrolled through the list of consecutive sentences. Relatives of the victims present in the room let tears flow as they listened to the sentence.
For a second day in a row, the families of the victims were able to vent their anger in front of the author of the killing.
Accompanied by her husband, Annika Dworet told how the details of the massacre were “painful” to hear. Present at every trial hearing, she said it was “unbearable” to be in the same room as the “monster” who had shot their son Nicholas and tried to kill their other son, Alex.
Mme Dworet added that “one of the most disgusting and unprofessional actions” that happened in the courtroom was committed by the defense team, who “held, touched and laughed with this murderer”. .
Chained and dressed in a red prison jumpsuit, Nikolas Cruz stared at the speakers, but showed little emotion, just as he had done the day before.
When Jennifer Guttenberg, mother of victim Jaime Guttenberg, stood up to speak, she began by berating the defendant for hiding his face and expressions behind a COVID mask, urging him to remove his face covering. face.
Mr. Cruz was convicted of the February 14, 2018, massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in suburban Fort Lauderdale. Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer had no choice but to impose the sentence after the jury in Mr. Cruz’s trial failed to reach unanimity on a possible death sentence.
Family members of the victims and some of the 17 injured who survived were held on Tuesday, a few meters from Mr. Cruz. They had looked him in the eye and expressed their anger and grief, telling the 24-year-old their hope that his remaining years would be filled with the fear and pain he inflicted.
Many have also criticized a Florida law, which requires unanimity of the jury for a death sentence to be handed down. Only 9 of Nikolas Cruz’s 13 jurors voted in favor of his execution on October 13.
On Wednesday, relatives who spoke to Mr. Cruz agreed with those who spoke the day before.
David Alhadeff, the uncle of victim Alyssa Alhadeff, told Mr Cruz via Zoom that he deserved “the opportunity to rot”.
You deserve the opportunity to absorb the look of terror on your face once you leave this courtroom. You deserve the opportunity to know that justice will prevail, causing you great anguish, minute by minute, day by day.”
David Alhadeff, uncle of victim Alyssa Alhadeff
Nikolas Cruz, a then 19-year-old Stoneman Douglas alumnus, donned a school jersey to blend in with the frightened students as he fled. He was arrested an hour later.
Sporting director Chris Hixon had been shot trying to stop the shooter. Wounded, the veteran fell to the ground and tried to hide in an alcove, but Nikolas Cruz finished him off by shooting him again.
His son, Thomas Hixon, a Navy veteran, recalled Tuesday that Nikolas Cruz expressed remorse when he pleaded guilty to the murders last year in an attempt to avoid the death penalty.
“Where was your remorse when you saw my father injured and bleeding on the ground, and you decided to shoot him a third time? Mr. Hixon asked the killer. “Your defense benefited from the idea of your humanity, but you had none for those you met on February 14.”