A school shooter who killed 17 people at his former high school deserves the death penalty, prosecutors in Florida have argued.
Nikolas Cruz, 23, has pleaded guilty to murdering 14 pupils and three staff members at Parkland's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018 and hopes to receive a sentence of life without the possibility of parole.
However, prosecutors and victims’ families have argued that the school shooter’s actions were so evil that the state should execute him.
“I think as a society we should want people who commit these heinous acts — who attack the future of our country — to be punished to the fullest extent of law, for any deterrent effect that should have,” Tony Montalto, whose daughter, Gina, was killed by Cruz, told the New York Times.
JUST IN: Confessed Parkland HS shooter Nikolas Cruz enters court ahead of the start of his death penalty trial. He's already pleaded guilty. The jury will decide if he should be executed. Trial is expected to last around four months with more than 1,000 witnesses listed. @TND pic.twitter.com/f8baBKvqNr
— Cayle Thompson (@CayleThompson) July 18, 2022
Life or death?
There are 12 jurors and for Cruz to receive the death penalty each must find him guilty of a capital offence; if one dissents he will be sentenced to life in prison.
To be found guilty of a capital offence there must be at least one aggravating factor to Cruz’s crimes and prosecutors believe there are seven - notably arguing that the killings were "especially heinous, atrocious or cruel."
"These aggravating factors far outweigh any mitigating circumstances, anything about the defendant's background, anything about his childhood, anything about his schooling, anything about his mental health, anything about his therapy, anything about his care," prosecutor Michael Satz declared.
Cruz, who was 19 at the time of the massacre, has said that he is “very sorry” for his actions and defence lawyers have pointed to his history of mental illness and troubled family life as mitigating factors.
If sentenced to death Cruz will be one of the youngest men on death row in the United States; had he been only a few months younger he would be ineligible for the death penalty as the US Supreme Court has forbidden states from executing people who were minors at the time of their crime.
Main image: Nikolas Cruz is seen during a status check on his case at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, FL, USA on Wednesday, August 15, 2018. Photo by Amy Beth Bennett/Sun Sentinel/TNS/ABACAPRESS.COM