A Florida jury recommended Thursday that the man who killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018 be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Nikolas Cruz pleaded guilty last year to 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in connection to the shooting. The jury had to decide whether to recommend Cruz be sentenced to death or jailed for life without the possibility of parole for each of the 17 counts.
Here's what you need to know:
About the trial: Prosecutors and defense attorneys present evidence of aggravating factors and mitigating circumstances — reasons Cruz should or should not be put to death. The state argued the killings were especially heinous and calculated. It presented evidence showing the gunman spent months searching online for information about mass shootings and left behind social media comments sharing his expressed desire to “kill people.”
The public defenders asked the jury to spare his life, based on his troubled history, from being raised in a dysfunctional family to serious mental and developmental issues.
The jury's recommendation: The jury recommended life in prison on all counts soon after they began their second day of deliberations. On each count, the jury found Cruz eligible for the death penalty based on aggravating circumstances – but did not unanimously find that those aggravating factors outweighed the mitigating factors. Benjamin Thomas, the foreperson, told CNN affiliate WFOR that three jurors voted against the death penalty.
Family reaction: All the family members who spoke to the media were furious about the verdict.
- The parents of 14-year-old Alyssa Alhadeff, said they were “disgusted” with the decision to recommend life in prison. Ilan Alhadeff said his family was “beyond disappointed with the outcome."
- Fred Guttenberg, the father of 14-year-old Jaime Guttenberg, said the Parkland massacre victims’ families were robbed of justice.
- The family of another 15-year-old victim Peter Wang says they are shocked at the decision. "This monster killed 17 people, how can he live another day?,” Wang's cousin Lin Chen said.
- "If not now the death penalty, then when?" said Patricia Oliver, whose son was killed in the shooting.
What's next: Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer set the sentencing date for Nov. 1. The hearing will begin at 9 a.m. ET.
Victims and family members are expected to speak before the sentence is delivered. Under Florida law, Judge Scherer cannot depart from the jury’s recommendation of life.