Nikolas Cruz sentenced to life in prison for Parkland Shooting 

The gunman faces life in prison without parole for killing 17 and wounding 17 others in the 2018 massacre


Photo courtesy of NPR (Amy Beth Bennett-Pool/Getty Images)

Nikolas Cruz awaiting the verdict for his trial on October 13

Mya Collins, News Editor

Nikolas Cruz, the gunman who entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and shot and killed 17 students and staff members and wounded 17 others in February 2018, was sentenced to life in prison without parole on Wednesday. 

The 24-year-old who pleaded guilty last year to 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder was formally sentenced four years after the massacre with 34 consecutive life sentences accounting for the 17 students he killed and the 17 he wounded.  

According to AP News, “Most decried that his jury voted 9-3 for death but did not reach the unanimity required under state law for that sentence to be imposed.” 

The trial lasted for two days with various family members of the victims and staff members in attendance. Some family members gave impact statements and demanded the death penalty while attacking the defendant for his actions.   

“This creature has no redeemable value,” Max Schachter, whose 14-year-old son Alex was shot and killed, said. “Other prisoners you will encounter in your new life will inflict that pain upon you, hopefully 17 times over again, until you are screaming for mercy, just like your victims.”

Without a unanimous vote from the jury for the death penalty, Cruz can only face life in prison under Florida state law. Family members of the victims criticized the three jurors who only recommended a life sentence. 

“It is heartbreaking how any person who heard and saw all this did not give this killer the worst punishment possible,” said Annika Dworet, whose 17-year-old son Nicholas was murdered. “As we all know the worst punishment in the state of Florida is the death penalty. How much worse would the crime have to be to warrant the death penalty?”

To persuade the jury to vote against the death penalty, the defense argued that Cruz was “doomed from the womb,” as they explained that his actions were a result of fetal alcohol syndrom causing him to have mental and developmental issues. 

“And in a civilized humane society, do we kill brain damaged, mentally ill, broken people?” Defense attorney Melisa McNeill said. “Do we? I hope not.”

Cruz’s sentencing without the death penalty has sparked controversy with some people believing he should face it, similar to the opinion of the victims families, and others believing he should only face life in prison. 

“The decision to give Nicholas Cruz a life sentencing with no parole compared the the death sentence goes against American principles,” RV senior Zach Lawrence said. “As a country, we preach freedom of speech but because the death penalty can only be enacted if voted on unanimously [in Florida], we lose sight of what [the] majority of people stand by…some jurors didn’t agree with sentencing him to the death penalty, and as a result, the majority that voted in agreement with his sentencing to death were undermined.”

As families pushed for the death penalty, the legislature stating that the jury must come to a unanimous decison has been called into question with the hopes of amending it. 

“When you murder in cold blood 17 innocent people, there’s no other punishment that meets the gravity of that crime. And to have one juror holdout on that was a travesty,” Governor Ron DeSantis said. “So, yes, I’m going to ask the Florida legislature to amend that statute.”

The sentencing of Cruz four years after he killed 17 people and wounded 17 others has shocked the world with its delay since the 2018 massacre.  

“My thought right off the bat was how surprised and devastated I felt for the families that had to wait this long for a final hearing and sentencing,” RV senior Jessica Kerchner said. “I remember the shooting taking place during my seventh grade year in middle school, and now I’m a graduating senior in high school.”

School shootings continue to be a prevalent issue in America, as students witness these tragedies continue to occur and one key idea remains consistent across the board with the occurrence of mass shootings in schools: the immense sympathy and sorrow for the victims and their families. 

“We can all agree that the entire story, regardless of politics, is extremely heartbreaking and eye-opening since it involved our peers,” Kerchner said. “My thoughts regarding the shooter’s sentencing have mainly been centered around the victims and the sorrow I feel for them, especially when it’s taken a total of four years for them to get justice.”

With a majority of the jury voting against the defense’s mental health argument and in favor of the death penalty, this life sentence will arguably set precedents for other school shooters awaiting trial considering how Florida’s unanimous vote is facing scrutiny.