The sentencing hearing for the shooter in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre in Parkland, Florida is ongoing this week. The shooter, Nikolas Cruz, pleaded guilty to the murders, so the trial is to determine whether he’ll spend the rest of his life in jail or be executed for the crimes. In Florida, death sentences require a unanimous verdict.
Cruz committed the murders with an AR-15 on February 14, 2018. He was 19 at the time and a former student. He is now 23 but still looks like a kid to me. (Perhaps because he’s about the same age as MY kid, whose adulthood I outwardly respect but secretly do not accept.) It’s fairly rare for a school shooter to be tried in court; most kill themselves or are killed by the police.
Cruz randomly murdered 14 students, a teacher who was trying to lead students to safety in his classroom, and the school athletic director and a football coach, who ran into the building to try to save students. The armed school resource officer took cover outside as the shooting unfolded. An additional 17 students were shot and injured. All of this happened within six minutes on three floors of one building.
I’m against the death penalty in every case, including this one. If Cruz had killed or injured my kid, I’m sure I’d have an entirely different view, and I expect the parents and families of those killed and injured at MSDHS are hoping for a unanimous verdict of death. It’s perfectly understandable.
Cruz had been a troubled mess for many years. Law enforcement missed so many red flags. Cruz caused so many unendurable losses, and some of the victims and families have channeled their rage and sorrow into gun safety activism, including students Cameron Kasky, David Hogg and X (formerly Emma) González, and also Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter Jaimie was among the victims.
All school shootings are horrific, but for me, this case has been haunting from the beginning. I wrote about it here a couple of days after it happened, believing it might finally change the thinking on guns, even just a little. It did, a little. The wingnut-dominated Florida statehouse and then-Governor Rick Scott did what was previously unthinkable and enacted new gun restrictions. Not enough. But not nothing either.
Anyway, I doubt they will, but I hope the jury spares the shooter’s life. And I hope everyone involved, even him, finds a measure of peace. Cruz is responsible for the horrors he visited on that school, all the lives he took and all the pain he caused. But America gave him the gun that made such a deadly rampage possible. This country — our sick gun culture — is an accessory.
Alison Rose 💙🌻💛
I was working in political news when this happened, and it was absolutely gut-wrenching reading and writing about it, especially with my rage at the NRA and its fluffers at an all-time high.
But I too am against the death penalty in every case, including this one. Killing someone doesn’t bring back the people they killed. I can understand if victims’ families feel a need for revenge, but that’s not what should be a deciding factor. I would not mind if a few of them got the chance to punch him in the face, though.
No one should get the death penalty. On the other hand, if anyone deserves it it’s him, and if he doesn’t get it the only reason will be because he’s a recognizable face, not some faceless Black guy in some rural Southern town nobody heard of. And that’s proof no one should get it.
Maybe that’s the same hand.
I’m with you Betty, against the death penalty in all cases, but I might feel differently if one of my daughters were killed. Apart from anything else, applying the death penalty means that the person who flips the switch (or whatever) has taken a life.
I’ve been watching snippets of these hearings. It’s all just so sad and stupid and awful in every way.
I’m not in favor of the death penalty, but in some ways it’s probably less cruel than locking someone away in a shitty prison for sixty plus years without a prayer of freedom.
I’m of the opinion that life in prison might be an even worse punishment than execution for this kid (sorry, I know he’s not a kid, he just…looks like one to me). Give him a lifetime to reflect on what he’s done.
And maybe, just maybe, own up to it and atone. That was the argument Clarence Darrow made for sparing the lives of the Lindbergh baby’s kidnappers/killers. And at least in one their cases, it actually worked out that way.
Agreed on the death penalty, Betty. And rotting away in a shitty prison is exactly what murderers like this deserve. I have no idea how I’d react if it was one of my people, but I hope I’d stand by my convictions. And yes, we the people are accessories to these murders.
I’m opposed to the death penalty as well. I don’t see it as doing any good in the world, and where it exists mistakes have been made and people have been wrongfully executed and it will happen again. While that’s not a question here, it will be in some future time.
I understand the desire to make a final statement and close the book on a horror. The hope to bring peace to victims families. but it’s been shown in many cases that doesn’t really happen, and their peace if found through other means, if they find it at all.
It’s not worth it, even for the vilest of monsters. Let us not damage ourselves any further to punish others.
Sympathy for the people and survivors of Parkland.
I look at Cruz and see a sad mess of a young man. We as a society failed him in every way, not the least of which was making a gun so available to him.
Some days I just plain hate this country.
Previously undisclosed communications among Trump campaign aides and outside advisers provide new insight into their efforts to overturn the election in the weeks leading to Jan. 6.
“We would just be sending in ‘fake’ electoral votes to Pence so that ‘someone’ in Congress can make an objection when they start counting votes, and start arguing that the ‘fake’ votes should be counted,” Jack Wilenchik, a Phoenix-based lawyer who helped organize the pro-Trump electors in Arizona, wrote in a Dec. 8, 2020, email to Boris Epshteyn, a strategic adviser for the Trump campaign.
In a follow-up email, Mr. Wilenchik wrote that “‘alternative’ votes is probably a better term than ‘fake’ votes,” adding a smiley face emoji.
The emails provide new details of how a wing of the Trump campaign worked with outside lawyers and advisers to organize the elector plan and pursue a range of other options, often with little thought to their practicality. One email showed that many of Mr. Trump’s top advisers were informed of problems naming Trump electors in Michigan — a state he had lost — because pandemic rules had closed the state Capitol building where the so-called electors had to gather.
The emails show that participants in the discussions reported details of their activities to Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, and in at least one case to Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff. Around the same time, according to the House committee investigating Jan. 6, Mr. Meadows emailed another campaign adviser saying, “We just need to have someone coordinating the electors for states.”
@Miss Bianca: In some ways, he was still a kid when he shot up the school. The prefrontal lobe — the part of the brain where “executive functions” such as planning and impulse control are regulated — continues to develop into your mid twenties.
@UncleEbeneezer: I read this story a little while ago and put a link on my FB page, commenting that today’s F words are “fake” and….”felony.”
Florida passed a “Red Flag” law in the wake of the Parkland shootings and it has evidently been put to good use. Virginia Democrats finally passed one in 2020 that has been used hundreds of times. Republicans barely retook the House of Delegates last year and tried to repeal it but the Democratic Senate majority held firm. Now it and other gun safety measures will be fought over in next year’s state Senate and House elections.
Virginia Democrats used to be afraid to touch the gun control question, but recently they have made it a good campaign issue, especially in suburban areas. Republicans are on the wrong side of public opinion here and I think Democrats will make them pay for this next year.
He was arrested on the spot, he plead guilty. Why did it take more than four years to sentence him? I don’t support the death penalty, period. So I don’t want him condemned to death, but I also don’t understand more than four years to sentence someone who plead guilty.
1.) Prosecuting Trump is NOT off-the-table (he’s included in “anybody”)
2.) No, announcing his candidacy would NOT change that or influence the decision.
@Cameron: “If you had asked me to hypothesize, for illustrative purposes, a set of emails that prosecutors would find helpful in proving a fake-elector fraud conspiracy, I would not have come up with anything nearly as incriminating as the emails that the Times just reported on today.” –George Conway
How can it possibly have taken for years to reach this point?
@Ohio Mom: That’s how I see him too. Obviously, he committed monstrous and unforgivable crimes, but he was mentally ill for many years, and the adults in his life failed him repeatedly. His brain was broken, but he had the “freedom” — as a teenager — to waltz into a store and purchase a gun expressly designed for killing large numbers of people in seconds and hundreds of rounds of ammunition for it. Cruz isn’t the only fucked-up person in that story.
@UncleEbeneezer: From Kellyann’s husband’s lips to Merrick Garland’s ears.
It is possible that some of the victims and witnesses required time to recover from their injuries.
I don’t actually know, but that is what occurs to me. Some of the witnesses called to testify were, in fact, describing their wounds and recovery processes, their current states of rehabilitation.
Executions say more about the society committing the execution than the person being executed.
The Myanmar executions yesterday say a lot about that country’s current leaders. See also China, Iran, Saudi Arabia.
Do not be any of those nations.
David 🌈☘The Establishment☘🌈 Koch
England Prevails! ⚽
@trollhattan: Indeed. I think the state doing such an act is heinous.
Better that they rot in prison, or optionally do either do public service in some shape way or form to earn forgiveness or finally give the option to terminate their life.
@dc: “The wheels of justice turn slowly.” or something like that.
@David 🌈☘The Establishment☘🌈 Koch:
I see what you did there.
@PIGL: The trial was delayed by a lot of things, including the massive amount of evidence involved, tons of motions to move the trial, for the judge to recuse, etc., and Cruz’s public defenders quitting when his late mother’s estate was settled, making him no longer eligible for their representation.
The delay was also caused in large part by the pandemic. I read an article the other day speculating that the current crime wave is caused, in part, by the huge backlog of court cases caused by the pandemic. The writer mused that the delays interrupt the deterrent effect of justice after a crime. I have no idea if that’s true or not, but it’s an interesting idea.
I also oppose the death penalty, in 99% of cases. (An exception would be someone like Ted Bundy, who was awfully good at escaping prison. Or someone who committed treason, as an example to others.)
I can’t even imagine what being in prison for 60 years would be like, though. Particularly if he gets the mental help he needs (I know: unlikely in prison) and fully realizes what he’s done, the magnitude and irrevocability of the evil he committed. Not sure how one lives with that.
Jim, Foolish Literalist
@Cameron: this Merrick Garland ?
The NYT and WP stories seem to run parallel, mentioning similar activities among different people, but the Post makes clear the DoJ is pursuing what both stories are reporting
David 🌈☘The Establishment☘🌈 Koch
Against the death penalty. He was a teenager. Feel the same for the younger Boston bomber too. It’s a travesty to add another death to the toll.
OT: today being Sir Michael Philip Jagger’s 79th (!) birthday, Philadelphia station XPN is doing an hour of Stones/Jagger songs this hour. Can’t You Hear Me Knocking up now.
Jim, Foolish Literalist
@Jim, Foolish Literalist:
That sounds to me like the DoJ is investigating people close to trump, but have managed to keep it relatively quiet, in spite of all the people saying it doesn’t work that way.
David 🌈☘The Establishment☘🌈 Koch
I am also against the death penalty. Mistakes will be made. Corrupt authorities have and will frame innocent people. I ask death penalty proponents how many innocents are you willing to kill to preserve an ability of vengeance. I haven’t checked the numbers lately but around 20 years ago the number of people cleared by the Innocence Project was equal to around 10% of the people executed since we restarted executions in the USA.
@Geminid: Speaking of state laws reminds me of something I’ve been wondering. When Roe was overturned, that put a lot of state laws back into play, laws that outlawed or severely restricted abortion. Some of these laws were ‘trigger laws’, passed after Roe but designed to come into effect at such a time that Roe might be overturned. But some of the laws were ‘legacy laws’, laws that were already on the books, some of them from when the state was a territory, which outlawed abortion long long ago – those laws were just never repealed because it didn’t seem necessary. And now, whoops, they’re in effect again.
Which causes me to wonder – what states have ‘legacy laws’ still on the books dealing with contraception, gay marriage, or homosexual conduct? Because you know those laws were on the books at one time, and I suspect a lot of them were never repealed because it didn’t seem necessary since the SC had ruled.
I’ve noticed that a lot of Republicans justify their votes against Democratic legislation to give federal protection to gay marriage and contraception by saying it’s just not necessary. But what if the SC suddenly grabbed some weird appeal and used it to overturn, say, the contraception right? I’m almost certain that there are states where contraception would be instantly outlawed. Overturn Lawrence, and suddenly the police could come busting into people’s bedrooms.
Anyway, someone needs to make up a list of what state laws are still on the books and bring those laws to the voters’ attention.
Many years ago, a student at my small, upstate NY high school killed his former girlfriend with a 22 rifle. He was 17 or 18 at the time, and got 20 years, as I recall.
I would not want to apply the death penalty to anyone below the age of at least 25. Before that your brain may not be fully developed, you don’t understand the world very well, and your morals are mostly those of your peer group. Chances are you will grow your character and regret many of your teenage actions, as I do. (Although I never shot anyone.)
comrade scotts agenda of rage
Like everybody here it seems, I’m against the death penalty. Period.
Actually, I’d like to see the everybody from a systemic side that allowed this to happen to be tossed into jail with the kid as well.
On the subject of the incarcereal state in general:
This just in, Tucker’s favorite foreign Nazi acts like Nazi. Now Tucker loves him even more.
@JimV: Agree with you. Age 25 at a minimum, and preferably virtually no death penalties.
@Jim, Foolish Literalist: Yes, indeed, I was delighted with his annoyed response when he received the gotcha question about prosecuting the ex-president. I’m not a Garland-basher.
The Moar You Know
His glasses are fake.
This bothers me. A lot. Not sure why.
Can’t sign on to the death penalty for anyone. But sometimes people really make that real hard.
@Miss Bianca: I think you mean the case of Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, who were convicted of kidnapping and murdering a boy named Bobby Franks. Darrow was their defense attorney. Leopold did many constructive things in the many years he was in prison, and after his parole. (Loeb was murdered in prison.)
More than anything, this is the thing that makes me opposed to capital punishment. No human system is perfect, and there’s abundant evidence our justice system makes mistakes. One of the ways we deal with this is by allowing the justice system to look back and correct mistakes when we find them. It’s true that we can’t completely undo those mistakes- the people we free after wrongful convictions will still have spent time in prison- but we can at least give exonerated criminals back what is left of their lives. We can’t do that for someone who was wrongfully executed.
Now I can understand someone saying the chances of an exoneration in this case are negligible. The evidence is overwhelming, which is why the accused confessed and pleaded guilty. But this is not the typical case. We should be willing to accept taking the death penalty off the table in this case to ensure nobody is executed wrongfully.
ETA: The need to look back and correct mistakes is also why I strongly oppose laws (and judicial decisions) that deny people the ability to challenge their convictions after the fact.
@Betty Cracker: excellent article Betty Cracker.
@OzarkHillbilly: TPTB do the similar thing in CO. Horses rounded up from the wild Mustang herds. Similar outcomes and a skill for potential use after the end of sentence.
@The Moar You Know: What makes you say his glasses are fake?
@JML: when you look at the data and the uneven application of justice in this country, if you’re a normal person, you realize that giving the state the power to take a life is just a bridge too far. Mistakes happen and the system is better off with LWPOP.
@Alison Rose 💙🌻💛:
I suspect that a good percentage of the American public don’t see a distinction between justice and revenge. You can even find asshole intellectuals arguing such on NPR.
Execute him. Prefrontal lobe? Bullshit. A lifetime to reflect on his crimes? Nonsense. He’s a worthless POS who massacred 17 people. Good riddance.
Last I heard, support for the death penalty was declining nationwide. As with many things, our political system is lagging behind.
@Cameron: I figured as much. Your tone didn’t have full-on Garland-bashing energy, to me. It is kinda wild though, that George is married to Kellyanne since he seems like a decent guy.
President Johnny Gentle (Famous Crooner)
I don’t know why people think that inmates rot away in a prison like it’s a fate worse than death.
Of course prison is awful. Some prisons are more awful than others. But put someone in prison for a long time and they acclimate and adapt. They make friends, form social circles, laugh and joke, play sports, take classes, watch plenty of TV, become “jail house lawyers” or writ-writers in some cases, etc. They might have access to contraband like cell phones or drugs (synthetic flakka is a fave). If they behave, they get special privileges like good adjustment transfers to prisons closer to home, or ones that offer better programs.
I’m certainly not saying prison is awesome or that you need to change your mind on the death penalty or anything like that. But it always bothers me when people imagine prison as this ceaseless hell and not guys hanging out in a day room watching re-runs of Empire.
@trollhattan: There’s some wild shit being said in this country too. The subject of Pennsylvania Governor candidate Doug Mastriano came up in an earlier thread, and then I ran into a Mastriano story in the Jerusalem Post:
A recent report said that Mastriano had purchased $5,000 in advertising and “consulting services” from the toxic social media platform Gab. There were calls for Mastriano to renounce Gab so Gabriel Tor, Gab’s CEO, weighed in on a livestream:
Then Tor described his own and his candidates’s media strategy, and now Mastriano may have some ‘splaining to do:
@persistentillusion: Many do the same with abused dogs. There is something about having someone to love and to return that love that soothes the savage soul. Almost like maybe they never got that growing up?
@Poptartacus: Would you do it yourself and face the consequences, or at the end of the day, do you rely on a system of justice and all its biases that need accounting for, like the rest of us? At which point, all sorts of inconvenient obstacles to righteous indignation come in, unless you’re fine with collateral damage as long as it’s to “them”.
@President Johnny Gentle (Famous Crooner):
To some of us, sitting around watching re-runs of Empire sounds like hell.
@UncleEbeneezer: They say there’s a lid for every pot.
I used to be 100% opposed to the death penalty. Now I make an exception for terrorists, both foreign and domestic, who murder people during the commution of a terrorist act.
@President Johnny Gentle (Famous Crooner): After I saw the mini-documentary in today’s NYT about the first day of freedom for convicted bank robber Jack Powers, I googled his story.
His incarceration was horrific, and long. All I can say is, I am sure many — maybe even a majority — of convicts find life behind bars the way you describe it, but it’s not universal.
Also, when it comes to navigating prison life, it probably helps if you are merely bad and not mentally ill. Cruz does not have a healthy brain.
@Citizen Alan: Turkey did away with the death penalty in 2004, but recently Turkish President Erdogan said he’d like to reinstate it so as to punish arsonists who set forest fires. But Erdogan’s a very cranky guy.
@Citizen Alan: One of the arguments against tne death penalty is we often execute the wrong or innocent person. What will be different about terrorist cases? Sometimes we’ll have airtight evidence but not always.
A Man for All Seasonings (formerly Geeno)
I’ve always believed that the death penalty should be used only as society’s self defense mechanism. Only people who show intent to commit more violence – like a Timothy McVeigh, for example – should be eligible, but good luck codifying that or enforcing it.
Human beings just aren’t trustworthy with that sort of power.
Bundy was never that good an escape artist. Lots of completely ineffective and incompetent LEOs allowed him to escape. The families of the murdered women and girl and the survivors in FL should have sued the shit out of the shitty LEOs in CO.
I am not sure I’ve heard it stated more eloquently, ” I outwardly respect but secretly do not accept his 23 year old adulthood.” Thanks a lot for that. I’m having 23 year old-stuff and am really struggling with all of it. I can’t make it happen. And it does and doesn’t as it evolves. Thanks.
J R in WV
I think repeat offenders, murderers who have been arrested, convicted, jailed, and manage to kill or seriously injure someone subsequent to their first crime spree, should be eligible for the death penalty.
if their prison sentence doesn’t inhibit their urge to injure or kill others, they need to be put down like a rabid dog, in other words. And this is not an impossible or unicorn kind of sequence of events. It happened with Bundy, and with a prisoner here in WV named Ronald Williams, who killed a city cop, David Lilly, escaped, and killed others. IIRC he shot a U S Marshall during his arrest.
@docNC: The early twenties can be a tumultuous time of life. It can be very hard to find your footing. I’ve been watching my friends’ kids in that age bracket and it’s somewhat agonizing to watch because it’s bringing up memories I’d rather go back to forgetting.
My unsolicited advice is, cut yourself lots of slack, be kind to yourself, and if need be, don’t be embarrassed to get some counseling. And keep commenting!
@UncleEbeneezer: You just identified George Conway’s schtick. He seems like a decent guy.
Betty, just go back in from errands and see your post.
I agree with you on executions, let them live out their lives in jail thinking about what they did, or at least let them live so they have the opportunity to grow the hell up and possibly realize that they were wrong and it’s only because of better humans that they aren’t dead as well as their victims. Not that I think many of them would actually do that, but being a better human than they are/were sure should be a goal. And executing them, an eye for an eye is bullshit, it doesn’t give the opportunity for growth. A girl I went to the first 12 yrs of school with and church, the short time I attended church, has been in jail for murder for 52 yrs. Killing her would not bring back those she tortured and help kill. She has had issues in life that no one should have to go through but she also helped some of those issues occur. I doubt that anyone that knew her 57 yrs ago would have any idea that she would end up who she turned out to be.
I want to be better than many of those that have gone before me, how else does the world, and humanity ever get better?
Fry his ass.
Aside from the moral arguments which happen to be convincing for me, the fact that any justice system is imperfect and there is a risk of killing an innocent person should be enough to do away with capital punishment.
Not a supporter of capital punishment, but won’t shed any tears for the condemned in this case if that is his fate.
@Ohio Mom: I should clarify and say my son is 23 and I’m dealing with all that, as he has some bad stuff going on. Every day is a challenge.
@Omnes Omnibus: I hate when I agree with you. The universe is inside out
It’s okay; you still want to kill far more people than I do.
Ghost of Joe Liebling’s Dog
And of possible interest to people who would like the possibility of buying homes where they would prefer to live : look up “unenforceable restrictive covenants” sometime. Illegal now, but still incorporated in the deeds … ready to come to life again if and when a far-right USSC opines that really quite a lot of law was wrongly decided.
(Not a loy-ruh, and hoping I’m wrong …
Editz : my, that is a visual editor!
@Ohio Mom: Because most of them brag about it on Facebook perhaps?
The only person the death penalty has stopped someone else from killing someone is the dead person. People still commit murder or kidnapping. Even in jail people have been killed. There are billions of us on this rock and not all of us are good, I’d say 98% of us are capable of killing, maybe not murder but can take a life. I carried a gun in the military, on watch in port, with orders to kill if necessary. Could I or would I have done that if I thought it necessary? I don’t know, I was never presented with an opportunity/need. Thankfully. I’m likely not the only one on this blog that have had a job as an armed person who would (I believe anyway) have done their duty. I didn’t want to, ever, and I’m lucky I never had to make that decision.
But this concept that we kill everyone we don’t like is part of the problem. I have zero idea how we can change this, I thought we were making progress, but then we have the right, with many seemingly thinking the only way their system works is to kill off everyone else. What happens to the world when all the smart people are killed off and the only people remaining don’t seem like they’d be able to find their way out of a paper bag, with a flash light and instructions?
The murderer of my beloved aunt was recently given an execution date. I don’t want to be a witness to the event, although as I am, along with several cousins, her closest surviving family member, because killing the guy won’t revive my aunt. So what’s the point?
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@tokyokie: I am so sorry your aunt was murdered. Terrible.
There is a quote by one of the founders of the ACLU — I don’t know which — who was asked: If your daughter (his wife had passed) were raped and murdered, what would you think should be done with the criminal? He replied: “I would want to see the man torn to pieces by wild horses. But under the circumstances, I would be the last person to consult on wise public policy.”
@Geminid: In 2018(?) there was a massive fire in the Columbia River Gorge, caused by a teenager throwing a smoke bomb for laughs. 47,000 acres burned. The kid was ordered to pay $36 million in restitution; the judge noted that he probably wouldn’t be able to pay it off in his lifetime, but it’s there.
@docNC: Oh, that makes sense! We don’t get many 23 year olds here. I was thinking, Goku isn’t the blog’s baby anymore.
Well, my advice still holds. Cut yourself lots of slack and be kind to yourself!
@Betty Cracker: That’s right. The easy availability of very powerful guns in this country is the root of the problem. There are mentally ill, screwed up, and just plain evil people everywhere, but in most countries those people cannot easily get guns. I blame groups like the NRAl, of course, but the real problem is the tens of millions of Americans who just love their guns and want more of them.
@prostratedragon: Way late back to the thread but you are right – I sit corrected.
Paul in KY
@comrade scotts agenda of rage: I am for the application in certain circumstances. This being one of them.
Paul in KY
@Ohio Mom: I think execution should only be an option when the evidence is ‘airtight’. Know that means some murderers will slip by due to their luck or skill in hiding their crimes, but want to stop any chance of an innocent person being executed.