By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
Instead, Nikolas Cruz, 24, will be sentenced to life imprisonment without parole for the 2018 massacre at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
A 12-member jury said Thursday that it could not unanimously agree that he should be executed.
The jury’s recommendation came after seven hours of deliberations over two days about the deadliest mass shooting to reach a jury trial in U.S. history.
The outcome ended a three-month trial that included graphic videos, photos, and testimony from the massacre and its aftermath with heart-wrenching remarks from victims’ family members and a tour of the still blood-spattered building.
Lead prosecutor Mike Satz had tried to convince the jury to sentence the young man to death, saying Cruz’s killings were cold, calculated, meticulously planned, and deserving of execution.
He said Cruz “was hunting his victims” for seven minutes, firing into some victims at close range and returning to some wounded people as they lay helpless “to finish them off.”
Satz also presented specifics of Cruz’s eight months of planning for the attack, where Cruz fired 140 shots with an AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle and his escape.
Satz pointed to Cruz’s internet writings and videos, where he talked about his murderous desires, such as when he wrote, “No mercy, no questions, double tap. I am going to kill a … ton of people and children.”
“It is said that what one writes and says is a window into their soul,” Satz said as the three-month trial neared its conclusion. The killings, he stressed, were “heinous, atrocious, and cruel.”
But his lead attorney, Melisa McNeill, wondered whether it was justice to send a brain-damaged, mentally ill person to death: “Ask yourself this: Did you really need to see that 14-minute video again? … You don’t need to hear those gunshots again. … Everything is embedded in your brain, unfortunately, and will be for a very long time,” she said.
She made no apologies for him, saying, “Nikolas knew the difference between right and wrong that day, and he chose wrong.”
But she stressed that the prosecutors, “The state of Florida wants to put you in a place of hate, and anger, and vengeance, because if that is where you’re at, you are more likely to sentence that young man to death. And the law that we all live by tells jurors that we must not make decisions based on passion, emotion or anger.”
She said: “The decision that you make here today, or when you do, is a decision that you can never take back. Ever. The law and your conscience requires you to look beyond the pain which seeks vengeance, not justice. You must choose courage over comfort.”
And she used Cruz’s condition as the defense presented. “You now know that Nicholas is a brain-damaged, broken, mentally ill person through no fault of his own. He was literally poisoned and Brenda’s womb,” McNeill added.
“He did not have control over who his biological mother is,” she explained.
McNeill reminded jurors that Cruz is “mentally ill and has a neurodevelopmental disorder associated with prenatal alcohol exposure” and asked, “And how do you know that? Because we showed you that. We brought the best experts in the country to tell you that, based on their evaluations.”
The defense strategy appeared to work: The jury effectively decided that Cruz would have an opportunity to rethink his crimes for the rest of his life behind bars.
If you are interested in articles produced by Worthy News, please check out our FREE sydication service available to churches or online Christian ministries. To find out more, visit Worthy Plugins.