Parkland School shooter Nikolas Cruz faces jury decision
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Following a three-month sentencing trial in Florida, jurors have delivered their verdict on Nikolas Cruz, who has pleaded guilty to murder charges in connection with the 2018 Parkland shooting. Cruz faced either a life sentence or the death penalty, and the jury has opted for the former sentence, reports have confirmed today. Reuters has reported that jurors have determined he will spend the rest of his life in prison, a sentence sought by Cruz’s legal team.
Parkland school shooting: Jury reaches verdict in death penalty trial of Nikolas Cruz (Image: GETTY)
He pled guilty to charges relating to the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida.
They include 17 counts of first-degree murder and another 17 counts of attempted first-degree murder relating to the killings of 14 children and three staff members at the school.
Prosecuting lawyers had sought the death penalty, and argued the crimes perpetrated by Cruz were premeditated, heinous and cruel, among the criteria used to qualify a death sentence in Florida law.
The proceedings included testimony from relatives of shooting victims and videos depicting students at the school hiding from the lone gunman’s semi-automatic weapon fire.
Parkland school shooting: Prosecutors argued for the death penalty (Image: GETTY)
Cruz’s representation had acknowledged the severity of the crimes but asked the jurors to consider mitigating factors.
These included lifelong mental health conditions that resulted from his mother’s substance abuse during pregnancy.
Jurors have ruled that the aggravating factors did not outweigh mitigating circumstances as they reached their verdict.
Victims’ families sitting in the court during the verdict appeared visibly upset.
Parkland school shooting: Cruz has pled guilty to charges relating to the Parkland shooting (Image: GETTY)
Cruz also apologised for the crimes he committed in 2018 aged 19 after being expelled from high school.
He requested a life sentence without the possibility of parole so he could dedicate the rest of his life to helping others.
The Parkland shooting is one of several mass killings at US schools in recent years that have reignited the debate around gun regulation.
One of the most shocking shootings of recent memory in Uvalde, Texas, continues to ripple through the US.
Parkland school shooting: Schools shootings have led to increased calls for gun regulation (Image: GETTY)
In May this year, an 18-year-old gunman entered Robb Elementary School and shot 21 people, 19 of whom were students and two of whom were teachers.
The shooting was the second most deadly in US history conducted in an elementary, middle or high school.
The perpetrator was killed after a shootout with police officers and prompted a regulatory push from US lawmakers.
President Joe Biden signed the most ambitious firearms legislation in decades on June 25.
The bipartisan federal reforms expand background checks, strengthen red flag laws and crack down on gun traffickers, among other measures.
Mr Biden hailed the bill as an answer to requests from families affected by shootings in the US.
He said: “Their message to us was, ‘Do something.’ How many times did we hear that?
“‘Just do something. For God’s sake, just do something.’ Today we did.”