Parkland School shooting: Florida jury recommends life in prison for Nikolas Cruz

Cruz, 24, killed 17 people in 2018 school massacre

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Jurors determined on Thursday that Nikolas Cruz should be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people.

Cruz, 24, had pleaded guilty last year to premeditated murder at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. He used a semi-automatic rifle to kill 14 students and three staff members in one of the deadliest school shootings in American history.

Cruz's defence team had acknowledged the severity of his crimes, but asked jurors to consider mitigating factors including lifelong mental health disorders resulting from his biological mother's drug and alcohol abuse during pregnancy.

As Judge Elizabeth Scherer read out the lengthy findings for each of the 17 victims, relatives in the packed courtroom wiped away tears and shook their heads as it became clear that Cruz would probably avoid the death penalty.

Under Florida law, the judge decides the final sentence. Ms Scherer said she would hear additional survivor and family testimony on November 1, with the sentence coming on that day or soon after. A death sentence could only have been handed down if jurors had unanimously recommended he be executed. The only other option was life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Cruz, who at the time of the shooting was 19 and had been expelled from the high school, has apologised for his crimes and asked to be given a life sentence without the possibility of parole in order to dedicate his life to helping others.

The courthouse was packed with families of the 17 victims, many of whom have been present for every day of the three-month trial.

Fourteen students and three teachers were killed by Cruz at Parkland's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine's Day 2018.

Judge Elizabeth Scherer. EPA

Cruz, 24, pleaded guilty last year to 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder.

The trial to decide whether he would die or face life in prison began in July.

The 12-person jury heard weeks of gut-wrenching testimony from survivors, relatives of the victims, forensic officials and police.

They also visited the now-sealed crime scene, the school's freshman building, which has remained frozen in time since the massacre.

Reporters allowed to the scene following the jury visit described Valentine's cards and homework scattered over classroom floors still stained with blood.

The defence argued Cruz deserved mercy, citing a turbulent upbringing.

Updated: October 14, 2022, 5:25 AM
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