A Florida jury has unanimously recommended that Nikolas Cruz be sentenced to life in prison for the 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people.
Cruz, 24, pleaded guilty last year to the murders of 14 students and three staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and 17 charges of attempted murder. The mass shooting was among the deadliest in United States history.
Prosecutors sought to prove that Cruz’s crimes met the criteria to receive the death penalty under Florida law. During a three-month sentencing trial, they argued the shooting was premeditated, heinous, and cruel. They called survivors of the shooting to testify and presented videos captured by cell phones showing terrified students calling for help or hiding for their lives.
Teachers and students testified about seeing their peers killed. Families of the victims also gave heartrending statements.
Cruz’s lawyers argued that lifelong mental health disorders the defendant developed as a result of his biological mother’s substance abuse during pregnancy were mitigating factors that must be considered before sentencing. They said that Cruz’s adoptive mother was not able to properly care for him and that his severe mental and emotional deficits did not receive proper treatment.
Florida law requires that jurors be in unanimous agreement in order to hand down a death sentence. Anything short of unanimous agreement results in life in prison, Reuters reports.
The jury said that in each of the 17 counts of first-degree murder, the state had established beyond a reasonable doubt the existence of aggravating factors that warrant possible execution. However, one or more jurors said those factors did not outweigh the mitigating factors presented by the defense.
He will receive life in prison without the possibility of parole.
After pleading guilty last year, Cruz issued a statement apologizing for his crimes.
“I am very sorry for what I did and I have to live with it every day. And if I were to get a second chance, I would do everything in my power to try to help others,” Cruz said. “I am doing this for you and I do not care if you do not believe me, and I love you, and I know you don’t believe me but I have to live with this every day and it brings me nightmares and I can’t live with myself sometimes, but I try to push through because I know that’s what you would want me to do.”