Saturday, September 30, 2023

School killer Parkland formally sentenced to life in prison

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Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz was sentenced to life in prison without parole on Wednesday.

Cruz, shackled and in a red prison overalls, showed no emotion as Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer handed out 34 consecutive life sentences, one at a time. (Photo: AP)

By Associated Press: School shooter Nikolas Cruz in Parkland was formally sentenced to life in prison on Wednesday after families of his 17 murdered victims spent two days berating him as evil, a coward, a monster and an inhuman deserving of a painful death.

Cruz, handcuffed and in a red prison coverall, showed no emotion as Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer handed out 34 consecutive life sentences — one for those killed and the 17 he injured in the Marjory massacre of February 14, 2018 Stoneman Douglas High School in suburban Washington. Fort Lauderdale.

The judge’s voice broke as she read the opening sentences, but she gained strength and volume and pushed down the list. Scherer had no choice in sentencing; the jury in Cruz’s three-month criminal trial voted 9-3 on Oct. 13 to sentence him to death, but Florida law requires unanimity to impose that sentence.

Also read | Parkland shooter gets life, jury spares death penalty; disgusted, say the victims’ parents

Scherer made no comments to Cruz that went beyond what was required by law. Instead, the judge praised the families of the victims and the injured, calling them strong, gracious and patient.

“I know you’ll be fine because you’ve got each other,” Scherer said.

Some of the parents and other relatives of the fallen wept as she spoke. When she was done and Cruz was led out of the courtroom, a father muttered, “Relieved.” Then they gathered in groups and hugged each other.

Cruz, 24 and a former student of Stoneman Douglas, pleaded guilty last year to the massacre, where he occupied a three-story classroom building for seven minutes and fired 140 shots with a semi-automatic rifle. He will be taken to the Florida Prison Processing Center near Miami in a few days before being assigned to a maximum security facility. Experts say he will likely be placed in pre-trial detention for years before being released into the general population of the prison.

The conviction came after the families and the injured verbally beat Cruz for two days as they mourned their loved ones. Many wished him a painful death and complained that he could not be sentenced to death. Others said they would try not to think about him after leaving court on Wednesday.

“Really justice would be done if every family here got a bullet and your AR-15 and we got to pick straws, and each of us would shoot at you one at a time, making sure you felt every bit of it,” he says. Linda Beigel Schulman Her son, teacher Scott Beigel, was shot in the back as he led students to safety in his classroom.

She told him his fear would increase, “until the last relative who drew the last straw had the privilege of causing them to kill you.”

Fred Guttenberg told the court that he finally watched the security video of the shooting last week, witnessing his 14-year-old daughter Jaime come within a step of a stair door and safety when Cruz’s bullet struck her in the spine.

“I saw you enjoying it,” he told Cruz. He said he then went to Jaime’s grave and asked her for advice.

“I walked away from the cemetery and realized that regardless of the verdict, nothing changed. Jaime is still in the cemetery,’ he said. “I’m still a dad who dreamed every day of walking his daughter down the aisle and now I have to face a life full of reality that I won’t.”

Victoria Gonzalez, whose friend Joaquin Oliver was murdered while lying wounded on the floor, told Cruz she had once sat next to him in a class. She told him she felt sorry for him every day then, knowing he was having a hard time. His lawyers said his birth mother’s heavy drinking caused him brain damage – a claim that the prosecution and the families rejected.

“I supported you,” Gonzalez told Cruz, telling him she’d cross her fingers if the teacher asked him a question, hoping he’d do well and feel like she’d accomplished something. . At that time, her life was happy, she had friends: “Joaquin loved me for all my flaws.”

Now, she says, because of what Cruz did, she can’t get close to anyone because she fears loss, no matter what her appearance says.

“I blame you – not just you – but certainly you,” she said. She remembered listening to a coroner describe Oliver’s horrific head injury. “I will live with that – and you will live with that indifferently.”

Several parents said during the two days they would petition the legislature to change the state’s death penalty law so that unanimity of the jury is no longer necessary for a judge to impose a death sentence.

“Do we have closure now? Let me be clear, absolutely not,” said Dr. Ilan Alhadeff, whose 14-year-old daughter Alyssa was killed when Cruz shot at her classroom. “What I see is that the system considers the life of this animal more important than the 17 that are now dead. Worse, we sent the message to the next killer that the death penalty would not be applied to mass murder. This is wrong and must be fixed immediately.”

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