Nikolas Cruz has been sentenced to life with parole for the Parkland shooting in which he murdered 17 people and injured 17 more. This has apparently come as a shock to some of the relatives of the victims.

The jury of seven men and five women decided that Mr. Cruz should get life in prison without the possibility of parole for all 17 first-degree murder counts in the case, following less than a day of deliberations in a grueling and often emotional sentencing trial.

Relatives of the victims appeared horrified and baffled as they learned that Mr. Cruz’s life had been spared. In contrast, Mr. Cruz, 24, showed little emotion as Judge Elizabeth A. Scherer announced the jury’s decisions.

How could this happen? Since 2017, in order to impose the death penalty in Florida there has to be unanimous agreement among the jury. But according to the jury foreperson Benjamin Thomas, there was one member who was a “hard no” on the death penalty and ultimately she convinced two other jurors to side with her. “I don’t like how it turned out but that’s how the jury system works,” he said.

In order to reach this decision, the no-death-penalty jurors had to find that there were mitigating circumstances, i.e. reasons the death penalty should not be applied. Cruz’s defense leaned heavily into those arguments.

Lawyers defending the gunman, Nikolas Cruz, focused on aspects of his life that they said had left him a damaged person from birth, with a slew of developmental problems and sometimes violent behavior that overwhelmed his adoptive mother.

Melisa McNeill, the lead public defender in his sentencing trial, told jurors during her closing argument on Tuesday that he had been “poisoned” by his biological mother’s heavy drinking while she was pregnant with him. That, Ms. McNeill argued, had led to fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, which was misdiagnosed by experts throughout Mr. Cruz’s life.

“Were there things about Nikolas’s life that you wish hadn’t happened?” she asked the jury. “Are there things that he didn’t get that you wish he would have gotten? Was he missing people in his life that you wish he hadn’t missed?”

If they answered yes, she said, “That’s mitigation — that’s a reason for life.”

Not surprisingly, the decision to spare Cruz did not go over well with families of his victims.

“This should’ve been the death penalty, 100%,” said Lori Alhadeff, mother of 14-year-old Alyssa Alhadeff, one of the slain students.

“I sent my daughter to school and she was shot eight times,” she added. “I’m so beyond disappointed and frustrated with this outcome. I don’t understand.”

Alyssa’s father, Ilan Alhadeff, had a strong response as well.

“I’m disgusted with our legal system,” he said. “I’m disgusted with those jurors. I’m disgusted with the system that you can allow 17 dead and 17 others shot and wounded and not give the death penalty. What do we have the death penalty for?”

Alhadeff added, “I pray that animal suffers every day of his life in jail.” Other family members were equally angry.

“There are 17 victims, including my beautiful daughter Jaime, and they did not receive justice today,” said Fred Guttenberg, describing his emotions as “shame, anger, devastation.”…
Tony Montalto, who lost 14-year-old daughter Gina, was irate after the verdict.

“She should not have been extinguished by this monster,” he told reporters. “Gina deserved better than she got. She deserved better.”
Addressing those who do not support the death penalty, Montalto said: “Trade places with me. You’ll change your mind.”

There is even one relative who argued against the death penalty prior to the trial but changed his mind because of the trial.

Michael B. Schulman, the father of Scott Beigel, a geography teacher who was killed in the attack, wrote a guest essay in 2019 in The Sun Sentinel newspaper in which he said that prosecutors should not pursue the death penalty because it would put the families through too much trauma. He said just now that he had learned things during the sentencing trial about the gunman’s planning of the attack that made him want to take back everything he had written. “This animal deserves to die,” he said.

I recognize there are pro-life conservatives who are against the death penalty. While I respect those who hold such views for their consistency, I am not among them. I have children and the thought of losing them only to have some idiot juror let the killer live is maddening. Those three jurors had empathy for the wrong person in this case.

Finally, here’s Gov. DeSantis on the outcome.

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