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Nikolas Cruz jury recommends life sentence for Parkland shooter but finds enough evidence to justify death penalty

Prosecutors prevailed after playing jailhouse recordings in which the shooter boasted about spending years planning the mass murders

October 13, 2022 11:16am

Updated: October 13, 2022 12:51pm

The jury deliberating on Parkland high school shooter Nikolas Cruz recommended a life sentence for the convicted school shooter Thursday morning, but has also found there is enough evidence to justify the death penalty. Cruz was convicted for the murder of 14 students and 3 teachers in one of the worst and most violent mass shootings in American history.

A panel of seven women and five men decided Cruz’s sentence in just one day, after a three-month grueling criminal trial. They recommended the life sentence despite there being enough evidence to support a death penalty because of "mitigating factors." 

Cruz, a former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, walked into the three-story educational institution on Valentine’s Day 2018 and began shooting fellow students and teachers with an AR-15 rifle, but without any apparent premeditated targets.

Cruz’s defense lawyers had argued Cruz’s dysfunctional childhood was an important mitigating factor that led him to break down and cause the massacre.

Cruz’s was born to a drug and alcohol-addicted prostitute, but was later adopted by a Florida couple as an infant. 

Although his adoptive parents Lynda and Roger Cruz notably did a good job providing for him, his attorneys argued his psychological harm evolved from a young age during a turbulent childhood that was irreparable, causing damage to his brain.

Prosecutors argued the premeditated and depraved nature of Cruz’s murders warranted the death penalty, and used as evidence, jailhouse recordings in which the shooter boasted about spending years planning the mass murders.

However, defense lawyers argued Cruz actually had damage to his brain from his pregnant mother’s incessant drinking and consumption of alcohol.

They also raised facts such as Cruz witnessing his adoptive father die at the age of five from a heart attack and the fact his mother died just four months before the school shooting.

Correction: The immediate version of this story incorrectly reported that Mr. Cruz received the death sentence based on the findings of the jury that the death penalty was adequate.