A little while ago, Nikolas Cruz pleaded guilty to all 17 first degree murder charges plus a lot of lesser charges (attempted murder, possessing and discharging a firearm and causing great bodily harm, etc.) arising from the massacre he committed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
The judge explained that the minimum sentence — the “best case scenario,” as she put it — is life in prison without possibility of parole. The maximum penalty is death. He said he understands.
Cruz’s legal team has been offering a guilty plea in exchange for the state waiving the death penalty all along, but the state repeatedly refused. It looks like Cruz’s lawyers have concluded this is the best strategy to spare their client’s life.
The small courtroom was packed with the family members of the people Cruz killed so senselessly on Valentine’s Day 2018. Fred Guttenberg, who became a gun safety advocate after his 14-year-old daughter Jaime died in the mass shooting, told reporters he visited his daughter’s grave earlier this week to “ask her for the strength to get through Wednesday’s hearing.”
Cruz is 23-years-old now. He’s thin, bespectacled and pale. He was wearing a bulletproof vest, and there were tons of cops in the room to guard Cruz and, presumably, to make sure no family members rushed him. The prosecutor read a detailed account of the monstrous, irrevocable crimes that ruined countless lives into the record.
Cruz made a somewhat random and disjointed statement to the court and the victims. He said he was very sorry, noted that he had to live with his crimes every day, said if he has a second chance, he’ll try to find a way to help people. He said he felt it should be up to the victims’ families to choose if he lives or dies.
NIKOLAS CRUZ: “I am very sorry for what I did.”
— Julie Grant (@JulieCourtTV) October 20, 2021
In the next phase, the state will try to convince a jury to give Cruz the death penalty. I have a kid the same age as Cruz. I don’t know what broke Cruz’s brain when he was 17. So much waste. Killing him would be adding to it, in my opinion, but I can certainly understand why people would feel otherwise. [sigh] This is such a fucked up world sometimes.