In court on Tuesday, the Parkland school shooting survivors and bereaved family members of the deceased testified about the loved ones and sense of security the shooter stole from them and expressed displeasure that the jury did not suggest that he be executed.
Teacher Stacey Lippel addressed Nikolas Cruz, who appeared in court wearing a red prison uniform, heavy eyeglasses, and a surgical mask, saying, “You don’t know me, but you tried to murder me.” The person I was on February 14, 2018, at 2:20 p.m., is not the same as the one standing here now. I have been damaged and will never again view the world similarly.
The widow of victim Christopher Hixon was one of many witnesses who addressed Cruz personally, telling the shooter that he did not receive the justice he deserved: Debra Hixon remarked, “You were given a gift – a gift of kindness and mercy, something you did not convey to any of your victims.
A jury recommended Cruz serve a life sentence without the possibility of parole for the shooting at a South Florida high school where 17 people were killed, sparing his life because his defence attorneys argued he was a disturbed, mentally ill person. The recommendation came after a months-long trial to determine whether Cruz should receive the death penalty.
When Cruz, 24, who pleaded guilty last year to 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the deadliest mass shooting at an American high school, is sentenced, Broward County Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer must follow the jury’s recommendation (three jurors voted against a death sentence, which in Florida must be unanimous). This is true even as the epidemic of gun violence on college campuses in the US persists.
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After hearing additional testimony, she’s scheduled to sentence someone on Wednesday formally. Alyssa Alhadeff’s grandfather, David Robinovitz, referred to Cruz on Tuesday by the moniker “Parkland murderer” rather than by his first name, adding that while the gunman “won for the moment,” he will eventually pass away.
At that point, Robinovitz remarked, “I hope you go somewhere to meet your maker, Parkland murderer.” And, Parkland murderer, I pray that God sends you straight to hell, where you will burn there for all eternity.
“You will never comprehend the suffering,”
After the shooting, Anne Ramsay recalled: “listening to the screams and the crying of all the other relatives” while waiting at a motel to find out what had become of her daughter Helena. According to Anne Ramsay, families were notified one by one of the deaths of their loved ones until, eventually, just the Ramsay family remained. “How many families are here, someone asked us when they came over to us. One family was all there was. my relatives
According to her, Cruz was treated in the hospital in the interim. “While our loved ones were dying, you were being cared for.” Ben Wikander’s parents discussed their son’s recovery from three gunshot wounds over the past few years. According to Bree Wikander, whose son was treated by a trauma surgeon, his wounds were “injuries akin to what a soldier would” sustain in battle.
He is still healing today, she said. He is still constrained in what he can and cannot do. You’ll never be able to comprehend the suffering he has endured. His life, as well as our entire family’s, has been forever altered. Survivor Samantha Mayor similarly described her rehabilitation in a statement by her parents. A gunshot shot through her knee.
“The gunshot genuinely affects me in more than just bodily ways. It makes me think of the scariest day of my life, when I was paralysed from the waist down and was afraid to speak,” she wrote. Mayor is tense right now, scanning every area for the closest exit, and her heart thumps every time she hears a loud noise.
She worries about her future as well. Mayor wrote, “I dread against all odds that there is a potential of his being released one day. I fear that taking my children to school one day will be one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.” No justice has been done.
In his evidence, Anthony Montalto III, the 14-year-old victim’s younger brother, emphasised that Cruz is not a victim and that he “should be made an example (of) by being put to death.” Montalto remarked, “He shouldn’t survive while my sister rots in the tomb.
Families express outrage about the trial’s conclusion.
As prosecutors concluded their case for the death penalty last summer, many Parkland families had already testified over some days, outlining the magnitude of the loss they had endured. However, because they had to be approved by counsel on both sides, those comments, according to the father of 14-year-old victim Jaime Guttenberg, the 14 pupils killed, did not contain everything the families wanted to say.
After the jury’s verdict, Fred Guttenberg told CNN last month, “It wasn’t the totality of how we feel.” We shall be free to express ourselves at the sentencing hearing, including our current feelings over the verdict.
The Broward County State Attorney’s Office informed CNN in a statement before the hearing that this second round of victim impact testimony will take place over two days. It is unknown how many of them or the victims’ relatives would testify, but there are no time restrictions, and some witnesses may testify through video conference.
The state attorney’s office stated that the attorneys do not need to preview victim impact statements this week. The victim’s father, Alex Schachter, described the earlier restrictions on the families as “extremely sad” on Tuesday. Max Schachter remarked, “We were not allowed to talk about the killer, the crime, and the punishment that he deserved, (that) we wanted that creature to receive.
Others went even further, expressing dissatisfaction with how the court case turned out. The older sister of the murdered Alaina Petty, 14, Meghan Petty, said of the killer: “He chose to turn to violence and is now being protected from the same punishment he needlessly inflicted on my sister because he’s too terrified to endure what he exuberantly dealt out.
Some people loudly insulted the shooter’s chosen attorneys. Still, public defender Melisa McNeill eventually objected and reminded the court that everyone facing charges in the US has a right to legal representation. She claimed that criticising the prosecution and the jury “sends a message to the community” that if you serve on a jury and reach a decision that others disagree with, “you will be shamed and degraded.”
The defendants allegedly attempted to “curtail” the victims’ families’ rights to speak, which McNeill disagreed with. In response, the prosecution noted that the victims’ relatives had been given limited time to say earlier in the trial. Gordon Weekes, the public defender for Broward County, concurred with McNeill’s complaints outside of court, claiming that some of the testimony was illegal.
The loss of a victim might be expressed. They can vent their rage. They can talk about how it affected their families and themselves. He said they could express their feelings to the accused or the legal system.
But he continued, “That is not what Marsy’s Law is designed to do. A Florida statute gives crime victims certain protections and rights, including the right to participate and be heard in certain hearings. To suggest that by doing your job, there is some level of action that you’re encouraging. Similar statutes exist in other states.
It’s not intended to provide a framework that promotes vigilante justice. That is the place where suffering and the law must collide. The defence attorneys brought up the matter with the Judge, stating they felt the mention of their children should be off-limits, in an apparent response to one witness’ comment that they would find it difficult to face their children after defending Cruz.
Later on Tuesday afternoon, defence attorney David Wheeler reaffirmed that sentiment, emphasising that he thought remarks about the defence counsel’s children were unacceptable. Scherer retorted that she had missed the testimony relating to the children of the defence attorneys. Wheeler answered, “Judge, I can guarantee you that if they were talking about your kids, you would notice it. “You should get comfortable right now. “You’re out of line,” said Scherer.
The trial contrasted the gunman’s past with his awful crime.
Cruz’s trial advanced straight from the guilt phase to the sentencing phase as a result of his plea; the prosecution sought the death penalty while Cruz’s appointed public defenders argued for a life sentence without the possibility of parole. For several months, jurors listened to prosecutors and defence counsel discussed aggravating and mitigating circumstances—reasons Cruz should or should not be executed—before making their conclusions.
According to the prosecution, the killings were particularly heinous, atrocious, or cruel. To support their claim, they cited evidence that the shooter spent months meticulously planning the shooting, such as his online search history demonstrating how he looked up previous mass shootings and comments he made on YouTube expressing his explicit desire to carry out a mass killing.
However, defence lawyers argued that their client should receive a life sentence instead, citing a lifetime of difficulties that started before his birth: they claimed that Cruz’s biological mother used drugs and alcohol. At the same time, she was pregnant, leading to mental and intellectual deficits resulting from foetal alcohol spectrum disorder, which were never adequately addressed.
In her closing remarks, McNeill noted that “sometimes, the people who deserve the least amount of compassion, grace, and remorse are the ones who should get it.” The jury unanimously decided that the state had established the aggravating elements beyond a reasonable doubt and that they were sufficient to support the possibility of the death penalty. The jury ultimately recommended life in prison rather than death since they disagreed that the aggravating elements outweighed the mitigating ones.
“I don’t like how it ended out, but… that’s how the jury system works,” jury foreman Benjamin Thomas told CNN affiliate WFOR of the three jurors who voted against recommending the death penalty. Melody Vanoy, one of the jurors, told CNN that she was compelled to vote in favour of life because she “thought that the system failed” Cruz numerous times throughout his life.
However, the decision did little to help the families who had hoped to see Cruz executed and whose disappointment had turned to rage and uncertainty in the hours following the verdict’s reading. Alyssa’s father, Ilan Alhadeff, declared, “I’m furious with those jurors.” “I’m dissatisfied with the system because it allows 17 people to die and another 17 to be shot and injured without receiving the death punishment. Why do we still use the death penalty?