Fort Lauderdale, Fla. ( Associated Press) — The roses brought to honor love on that Valentine’s Day in 2018 withered, their dry and cracked petals scattered on the classroom floor, still soaked in the blood of victims who had been left behind for more than four years Time ago a former student had shot. ,
Bullets pierced walls, and glass fragments were shattered by bullets at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, where shooter Nicolas Cruz Killed 14 students and three staff members. Nothing was changed except the removal of the victims’ bodies and some personal items.
Twelve jurors and 10 choices that will decide whether Cruz receives the death penalty or life in prison made a rare visit to the scene of the massacre on Thursday, retrace Cruz’s steps through the three-story freshman building, known as the “Building Known as 12”. After he left, a group of journalists were very quickly allowed for the first public view.
The sight was unsettling: large pools of dried blood still lay on the classroom floor. A lock of black hair rested on the floor where the body of one of the victims once lay. There was a black rubber shoe in a hallway. Brown rose petals were scattered in a hallway where six people died.
In class after class, unfinished lessons were displayed in open notebooks. The blood-soaked book, “Tell Them We Remember,” sat atop a bullet-ridden desk in the classroom where teacher Ivy Shamis taught students about the Holocaust. A sign attached to the bulletin board reads: “We will never forget.” There two students died.
English teacher Dara Huss’s classroom, where most of the students were shot, contained essays about Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager shot by the Taliban for going to school, and who has since worked for educational access for women. Became a global lawyer. Girls.
One student wrote, “A bullet hit her directly on the head, but not in her brain.” “We go to school every day of the week and we take it all for granted,” wrote another. “We cry and complain without knowing how lucky we are to be able to learn.”
The door to Room 1255, teacher Stacey Lippel’s classroom, was pushed open—like the others—to indicate that Cruz had shot in it. Hanging on one wall inside was a sign saying “No Bully Zone.” The creative writing task for that day was on the whiteboard: “How to Write the Perfect Love Letter.”
And still hanging on the wall of the second-floor hallway was a quote from James Dean: “Live dreams as if you will live forever, live as if you will die today.”
In the geography class of slain teacher Scott Beigel, a laptop was still open on his desk. Student assignments comparing doctrines of Christianity and Islam remained, some graded, some not. On his whiteboard, Beigel, the school’s cross-country coach, was writing down the gold, silver and bronze medalists in each event at the Winter Olympics that began five days earlier.
Prosecutors, who put their case to rest after a jury visit, hope the visit will help prove that Cruz’s actions were cold, calculated, heinous and cruel; posed a great risk of death for many people and “interfered with a government function”—all aggravating factors under Florida’s capital punishment law.
Under Florida court rules, neither judges nor attorneys were allowed to speak to jurors—and jurors were not allowed to converse with each other—when they visited the cruise on February 14, 2018. reversed the path taken by him. Firing from floor to floor, in hallways and classrooms. Before the tour, the jurors had already seen surveillance video shooting and photographs After that.
The building is sealed and was surrounded by a 15-foot (4.6-m) chain-link fence, draped in a privacy mesh screen with zip ties. It hovers ominously over the school and its teachers, staff and 3,300 students, and can be easily seen by anyone nearby. The Broward County School District plans to demolish it whenever prosecutors approve. For now, it is a court exhibition.
“When you’re driving past, it’s there. When you’re walking into orbit, it’s there. It’s just a giant structure that you can’t miss,” said Kai Koerber, who was behind the shooting. The time was Stoneman Douglas Jr. He is now at the University of California, Berkeley, and the developer of a mental health phone app. “It’s just a constant reminder … it’s very difficult and terrifying.”
Cruz, 23, was convicted in October in 17 counts of first-degree murder; The trial is only to determine whether he has been sentenced to death or life without parole.
Miami defense attorney David S. Weinstein said prosecutors hope the visit “will be the final piece in eradicating any suspicion of any juror that the death penalty is the only recommendation that can be made.”
Such crime scene visits are rare. The former prosecutor, Weinstein, said that of more than 150 jury trials in the late 1980s, he only had one.
In most trials, a visit to a crime scene will not even be considered because years later it is not the same place when the crime took place and can give a false sense of what happened. But in this case, the building was sealed so that this could be done.
Cruz’s lawyers have argued that what prosecutors have claimed is provocative evidence, including Thursday’s visit, not only to prove his case, but to provoke jurors’ passion.
After jurors returned to the courtroom on Thursday, the mothers of the two victims testified that the massacre had a lasting impact not only every Valentine’s Day but other important family gatherings.
17-year-old Helena Ramsay passed away on her father’s birthday. “That day will never be a celebration and can never be the same for him,” said his mother, Anne Ramsay.
Hui Wang, whose 15-year-old son Peter died, said the shooting took place the day before Chinese New Year. A planned festival was canceled that year and every year since then.
“This day of unity became a day that hurts the most,” she said.
The wife of athletic director Chris Hixon and their 26-year-old son, who has special needs, also spoke to jurors who were heard from the victims’ families on the fourth and final day., Hickson, a 49-year-old Navy veteran, died while falling into the building while trying to stop Cruise and protect the students.
Corey Hixon describes the weekly ritual of receiving donuts with his father.
“I miss her,” he said, simply.