Crime & Justice

Florida jury fails to agree on death penalty for Parkland shooter

Miami, Oct 13 (EFE).- The jurors deciding the punishment confessed shooter Nikolas Cruz should suffer for killing 17 people at a high school in Parkland, Florida, recommended Thursday that he be sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Prosecutors had sought the death penalty, but Florida law requires unanimity to impose capital punishment and at least one of the five women and seven men making up the jury voted against executing the 24-year-old Cruz.

Regarding each of the 17 counts of first-degree murder, jurors concluded that the aggravating factors raised by the prosecution were not sufficient to cancel out the mitigating factors presented by the defense, such as the effects of Cruz’s fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.

Judge Elizabeth Scherer, who does not have discretion to set aside the jury’s recommendation and impose the death penalty, will formally sentence Cruz on Nov. 1.

Victims’ families sitting in the gallery of the courtroom in Fort Lauderdale reacted with dismay as Scherer read the jury verdict.

Lori Alhadeff, the mother of slain student Alyssa Alhadeff, told reporters that the families were “beyond disappointed with the outcome today. This should have been the death penalty 100 percent.”

Alyssa’s father, Ilan Alhadeff, said he was “disgusted” with the legal system and with the jurors.

Cruz, who was 19 at the time of the massacre, pleaded guilty a year ago to using an AR-15 assault rifle to kill 14 students and three staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2018.

The shooter had been expelled from the school for bad behavior.

The penalty trial did not get under way until July 17 in front of 12 jurors and 10 alternates selected from among nearly 1,800 potential jurors.

The prosecution and defense made their closing arguments early this week and the jurors began deliberating Wednesday

About 15 minutes into the second day of deliberations, the jury informed the Broward County circuit judge that they had reached a decision.

The Parkland massacre gave new impetus to the movement for gun control in the United States and an organization created by students who survived the shooting, March for Our Lives, mounted an event that brought hundreds of thousands of people into the streets of Washington just weeks afterward. EFE lce/dr

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