Fort Lauderdale, Fla. ( Associated Press) — Trial to determine whether the gunman who attacked a Parkland, Florida, high school is executed Monday, with a prosecutor describing how Nicolas Cruz crushed 17 of his victims, Some were returning as they were too wounded to hit them with the second volley.
Some parents cry as prosecutor Mike Satz describes in his opening statement how Cruise killed his children at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14, 2018. Others remained seated, their arms crossed over their chests. A woman who had lost her daughter fled the courtroom crying and with tissues on her face.
Saitz detailed how Cruz shot each of the 14 students and three staff members, and injured some of the 17. Some were shot while sitting at their desks, some while on the run, some were lying on the floor injured as Cruz systematically chased through the three-story building for nearly seven minutes.
Cruz, 23, was convicted for murder and attempted murder in October and is only fighting his sentence. The trial, which is expected to last four months, was scheduled to begin in 2020, but was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and legal battles.
Saitz described the killings as cold, calculated, brutal and heinous, citing the video Cruz, then 19, made three days before the shooting.
“This is what the defendant said: ‘Hi, my name is Nick. I’m going to be the next school shooter of 2018. My target is at least 20 people with AR-15s and some tracer rounds. This is going to be a big incident. And when you see me in the news, you’ll know who I am. You’re all gonna die. Ah yeah, I can’t wait,'” said Satz.
Seven-man, five-woman jurySupported by 10 options, only will decide whether Cruz is executed or sentenced to life imprisonment without parole.
It is the nation’s deadliest mass shooting to go before a jury.
Nine other gunmen, who killed at least 17 people, either committed suicide or were killed by police gunfire, during or shortly after their shootings. Suspected of killing 23 people in 2019 at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas Awaiting test.
It was not clear if anyone was present in the courtroom to support Cruz, who sat at the defense table among his lawyers. He mostly looked down at a pad of paper with a pencil in hand, but he could not seem to write. He would occasionally stare at Satz or the jury, gaze at the audience, or whisper to his lawyers.
After Satz spoke, Cruz’s lawyers announced that they would not make their opening statement until now was the time to present their case. This is a rare and risky tactic because it gives jurors the sole authority to examine serious evidence and hear testimony from survivors and victims’ parents and spouses before proceeding.
When lead defender Melissa McNeil makes her statement, she will emphasize that Cruz is a young adult with lifelong emotional and psychological problems who reportedly suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome and abuse.
Prosecutors’ first witness will be called on Monday afternoon. He didn’t say who that would be.
This is the first death penalty trial for Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer., When the jurors finally have the case dropped, they will vote 17 times for each of the victims on whether to recommend the death penalty.
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 the prosecution has presented for the victim must “exceed” 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.