The penalty trial of Florida school shooter Nicolas Cruz begins Monday with opening statements from a jury hearing and then the first evidence about the 2018 massacre that killed 14 students and three staff members at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland Was.
The seven-man, five-female panel, supported by 10 options, will hear from Chief Prosecutor Mike Saitz, who is expected to highlight Cruz’s brutality as he chased the three-story classroom building, carrying his AR-15 semi-automatic rifle. Firing from Down hallways and into classrooms. Cruz would sometimes run back to the wounded victims and kill them with a second shot.
Cruz, 23, pleaded guilty in October last year to 17 counts of first-degree murder; The only thing he is fighting is the death penalty that prosecutors are seeking.
Jury members can only sentence him to death or life without the possibility of parole for the February 14, 2018 shootings. The trial for the former Stoneman Douglas student, which was expected to last about four months, was due to begin in 2020, but was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic and legal battles.
Defense lawyers would not say when they would make their opening statements: at the beginning of the trial or when they would begin presenting their case from now on. The latter tactic would be rare and risky because it would give prosecutors the only chance to say so before jurors scrutinize the grim evidence and hear heart-wrenching testimony from survivors and victims’ parents and spouses.
If lead defender Melissa McNeill makes her statement, she will emphasize that Cruz is a young adult with lifelong emotional and psychological problems, reportedly from fetal alcohol syndrome and abuse. The goal would be to placate the feelings of jurors during the prosecution’s case hearing, leaving them more open to considering the defense’s arguments later.
The Parkland shooting is the deadliest to reach trial in American history. Nine other gunmen, who killed at least 17 people, either committed suicide or were killed by police gunfire, during or shortly after their shootings. The suspect in the 2019 El Paso, Texas, murder of 23 people at a Walmart awaits trial.
After the opening, which is limited to every 90 minutes, the first witnesses of the prosecutors will be called. He didn’t say who that would be.
When the jury finally finds the case this fall, it will vote 17 times on the question of whether to recommend the death penalty: once for each victim.
Every vote must be unanimous; A unanimous vote for either of the victims means that Cruz’s sentence would be life imprisonment for that person. The jurors are told that in order to vote in favor of the death penalty, the dire circumstances that the prosecution presented for the victim must outweigh the mitigating factors presented by the defense in its decision.
Regardless of the evidence, any juror can graciously vote for life in prison. During jury selection, the panelists said under oath that they were able to vote for any sentencing.