FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Florida leaders expressed a mixture of emotions Thursday after a jury rejected the death penalty and recommended instead a life sentence without parole for Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz for killing 17 people in 2018.
The jury reached the verdict nearly a year after Cruz, 24, pleaded guilty to the murders of 14 students and three staff members at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2018.
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The decision in the deadliest mass shooting that has ever gone to trial in the U.S. was reached after seven hours of deliberations over two days. It ended a three-month trial, during which the court heard testimonies from families, teachers and students reeling from the deaths of their loved ones, jurors visited the school massacre site and attorneys presented arguments and evidence.
Under Florida law, a death sentence requires a unanimous vote, in this case, on at least one of the 17 counts.
State and local leaders offered an outpouring of support and sympathies for the families impacted and spoke out on the jury’s decision following the close of the trial. We will update this story as more reactions come in.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis
DeSantis addressed the verdict before an announcement in Cape Coral on Thursday.
“I think that if you have a death penalty at all, that is a case — where you’re massacring those students with premeditation and utter disregard for basic humanity — that you deserve the death penalty,” the governor said. “I just don’t think anything else is appropriate except the capital sentence in this case, and so I was very disappointed to see that.”
Former U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist
Crist, who is currently running as Florida’s Democratic gubernatorial candidate, also joined the chorus of leaders advocating for the death penalty in the case of the Parkland school shooter. He released the following statement on Twitter:
There are crimes for which the only just penalty is death. The Parkland families and community deserved that degree of justice.— Charlie Crist (@CharlieCrist) October 13, 2022
I will continue to pray for healing for the families and every person impacted by this tragedy.
U.S. Sen. Rick Scott
Scott said in a statement that while he has faith in our justice system, he believes Thursday’s verdict was unexpected. He released the below statement on Twitter.
October 13, 2022
Florida Rep. Anna Eskamani
While Eskamani did not comment on what she thought about the verdict, she did express her condolences to those affected in the tweet below.
Sending love to every person and family affected by the Parkland tragedy. Many of those impacted I am honored to call friends. I know today is a heavy day. Know that you are not alone. 🙏🏽— Rep. Anna V. Eskamani 🔨 (@AnnaForFlorida) October 13, 2022
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd
Judd said while he’s not surprised Cruz was spared the death penalty, he added if anyone deserves it, “it’s that evil, violent piece of trash that massacred those children.”
“I’m on the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Commission, so I’ve seen a deep dive into the event, from when the shooter was a child... won’t speak his name... to when massacre occurs,” Judd said at a news briefing on Thursday. “There’s never been a more cold, calculated murder than that, and if you can’t get the death penalty for that in Broward County... that’s not a safe county to live in.”
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