FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Parkland school gunman Nikolas Cruz was officially sentenced to life without parole on Wednesday after the families of his 17 slain victims spent two days berating him as evil, a coward, a monster and a sub-human who deserves a painful death.
Cruz, chained and dressed in a red prison jumpsuit, showed no emotion as Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer handed down one-by-one 34 consecutive life sentences – one for those killed and the 17 he injured during of the February 14, 2018 massacre in Marjory. Stoneman Douglas High School in suburban Fort Lauderdale.
The judge’s voice cracked as she read the first few sentences, but it gained strength and volume, moving down the list. Scherer had no other choice in sentencing; the jury in Cruz’s three-month trial voted 9 to 3 on October 13 to sentence him to death, but Florida law requires unanimity for that sentence to be handed down.
Scherer made no comments directed at Cruz beyond what was legally required. Instead, the judge praised the families of the victims and the injured, calling them strong, graceful and patient.
“I know you’re fine, because you got yourself,” Scherer said.
Some parents and other family members of the victim cried as she spoke. When she finished and Cruz was led out of the courtroom, a father mumbled “Good riddance”. They then gathered in groups and kissed.
Cruz, 24 and a former student of Stoneman Douglas, pleaded guilty last year to the massacre, where he stalked a three-story classroom for seven minutes, firing 140 rounds from a semi-automatic rifle. He will be taken in a few days to the treatment center of the Florida penitentiary system near Miami before being assigned to a maximum security establishment. Experts say he will likely be remanded in custody, possibly for years, before being released into the general prison population.
The sentencing came after the families and injured spent two days verbally beating Cruz while mourning their loved ones. Many wished him a painful death and lamented that he could not be sentenced to death. Others said that after leaving court on Wednesday they would try to forget about him.
“Real justice would be served if every family here got a bullet and your AR-15 and we had to pick up straws, and each of us had to fire one at a time at you, making sure you felt every moment of it. Linda Beigel Schulman said. Her son, teacher Scott Beigel, was shot in the back as he led students to safety in his classroom.
She told him that her fear would increase, “until the last member of the family who broke the camel’s back has the privilege of making sure they kill you.”
Fred Guttenberg told the court that last week he finally watched security video of the shooting, seeing his 14-year-old daughter, Jaime, come within a step of a stair gate and safely when the bullet de Cruz hit her in the spine.
“I saw you enjoying it,” he told Cruz. He said he then went to Jaime’s grave and asked for his advice.
“I walked out of the cemetery realizing that no matter the verdict, nothing changed. Jaime is still in the cemetery,” he said. and now I have to face a lifetime of reality that I cannot.”
Victoria Gonzalez, whose boyfriend Joaquin Oliver was murdered as he lay injured on the floor, told Cruz that she once sat next to him in a classroom. She told him that she felt sorry for him every day, knowing he was struggling. Her lawyers said her birth mother’s heavy drinking caused her brain damage – a claim the prosecution and families have denied.
“I was supporting you,” Gonzalez told Cruz, telling him she would cross her fingers when the teacher asked her a question, hoping he would pass and feel the accomplishment. At the time, her life was happy, she had friends: “Joaquin loved me for all my faults.
Now, she says, because of what Cruz did, she can’t get close to anyone anymore because she fears loss no matter what her outward appearance says.
“I blame you — not you alone — but definitely you,” she said. She remembers hearing a medical examiner describe Oliver’s horrific head injury. “I will live with this – and you will live with this regardless.”
Several parents over the two days said they would ask the Legislature to change the state’s death penalty law so that jury unanimity is no longer required for a judge to impose a sentence. of death.
“Do we now have the closure? Let me be clear, absolutely not,” said Dr. Ilan Alhadeff, whose 14-year-old daughter Alyssa was killed when Cruz fired into her classroom. “What I see is that the system values the life of this animal over the 17 currently dead. Worse still, we sent the message to the next killer there that the death penalty would not be applied to the killings. This is wrong and should be corrected immediately.
Associated Press writers Freida Frisaro and David Fischer in Miami contributed to this report.