Last week at Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz's penalty trial, prosecutors played a video of jailhouse interviews he did with two of their mental health experts. Cruz answered questions about his massacre of 17 people at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2018 — his planning, his motivation and details of the shootings, reports the Associated Press. While it is unclear what the 12 jurors are thinking, if any are wavering between voting for death or life without parole, his statements to Dr. Charles Scott, a forensic psychiatrist, and Robert Denney, a neuropsychologist, did not help his cause. “All of this made Cruz himself perhaps one of the state’s best witnesses,” said David Weinstein, a Miami defense attorney and former prosecutor who has been monitoring the trial. The jury will likely decide Cruz’s fate this week. For the 24-year-old to get a death sentence, the jury must be unanimous regarding at least one victim. Closing arguments are scheduled for Tuesday, with deliberations beginning Wednesday.
Because Cruz’s defense is that his birth mother’s heavy drinking during pregnancy left him brain-damaged, prosecutors could have experts examine him for their rebuttal case. Scott and Denney interviewed him separately for several hours. In each, Cruz sat across the table, handcuffed. He sometimes asked for a pen and paper to add diagrams and drawings to his explanations. “The question is: What will the jury take away from the interviews? A cold-blooded killer who was vengeful and excited about the murders, or a person so hopelessly deranged that he can’t be anything but crazy?” said Bob Jarvis, a professor at Nova Southeastern University’s law school. Cruz said he watched violent videos, particularly documentaries about mass shootings at Colorado’s Columbine High School, Virginia Tech, and elsewhere. He detailed the lessons he learned: Watch for would-be rescuers coming around corners, keep some distance from your targeted victims, attack as fast as possible — and “the police didn’t do anything.” He went floor to floor, shooting down hallways and into classrooms, firing 140 shots in all. Students and teachers fled the building or locked themselves in classrooms. In Denny's final interview, he asked Cruz if there was anything else he should know. Cruz thought for 10 seconds before responding: “Why I chose Valentine’s Day.” “Because I thought no one would love me,” Cruz explained. “I didn’t like Valentine’s Day and I wanted to ruin it for everyone.”