A jury has decided against the death penalty for Nikolas Cruz, the gunman who killed 17 students and teachers in the Parkland, Fla., high school shooting four years ago, instead sentencing him to life in prison without the possibility of parole for all 17 first-degree murder counts, report Patricia Mazzei and Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs for the New York Times.
The jurors indicated that while prosecutors had convinced them that the depraved killings warranted the possibility of the death penalty, none of the terrible facts about the gunman’s crimes outweighed the circumstances of his deeply troubled life. Defense lawyers had argued that Cruz’s brain was damaged before birth because his biological mother drank heavily, smoked and, allegedly, also abused drugs while she was pregnant with him, resulting in a child with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder that was never properly diagnosed.
The decision left many of the victims’ families reeling and enraged, with some calling out failures in the justice system and voicing resentment for the fact that jurors are not allowed to take into account victim impact statements from family members when they are contemplating their sentencing decision.
They questioned the purpose of the death penalty if it is not imposed on a mass murderer of mostly children. Three jurors voted to spare Cruz’s life in Florida, where a unanimous vote is required to impose a death sentence