Crime & Justice

Jury selection begins for confessed Parkland shooter’s sentencing trial

Miami, Apr 4 (EFE).- The jury selection process began Monday for the sentencing trial of the confessed killer of 14 students and three staff members at a high school in Parkland, Florida.

The jurors will decide whether Nikolas Cruz, who also wounded 17 others in that 2018 shooting, receives life in prison or the death penalty.

Andrea Gherfi, sister of one of the victims at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, told Efe Monday that she is 100 percent in favor of the death penalty.

Human beings can adapt to anything, even prison, said the woman, 29, whose 17-year-old younger brother, Joaquin Oliver, died in the school shooting.

A large group of journalists gathered early Monday outside the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, around 35 kilometers (20 miles) north of Miami, although they are not expected to be able to observe the selection process.

Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer has said the trial will last around six months and that the first public hearings are due to start in about a month.

Hundreds of potential jurors could be brought before the judge as part of a process that will eventually seat 12 jurors and select eight alternates.

Cruz can only be put to death if all 12 unanimously reach that decision. If one juror disagrees, he will be sentenced to life in prison.

The defendant, who had previously attended Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School before being expelled for disciplinary reasons, has been detained since the day of the shooting on Feb. 14, 2018.

He not only pleaded guilty last Oct. 20 but also asked forgiveness of the families of his victims and told them that he loved them, although he said he knew they would not believe him.

“I am very sorry for what I did, and I have to live with it every day,” he said in a written statement after his guilty plea on 17 charges of first-degree murder and 17 charges of attempted murder was accepted.

Cruz, who’d had a history of violent episodes at the home of his adoptive mother in the affluent Fort Lauderdale suburb of Parkland, arrived at the high school that Valentine’s Day with an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle and began firing indiscriminately inside one of the buildings.

Amid the bloodshed and chaos, he managed to leave the school but was arrested by police hours later.

Both of Cruz’s adoptive parents had died at the time of the shooting: Roger Cruz in 2004 and Lynda Cruz in 2017. He is survived only by his brother, Zachary, who also had been adopted by that couple.

Around nine months after the school shooting, Cruz attacked a Broward County jail guard and briefly wrestled him to the ground. The incident was caught on camera and led to his being sentenced to around 25 years in prison.

Footage of that crime will be shown to jurors at the trial. Judge Scherer also has decided to allow them to see disturbing photos that Cruz posted to a public Instagram account before the school shooting. EFE


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