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Life Term Likely in Parkland Case, Although Some Families Seek Death

Nikolas Cruz, 24, is expected to get a sentence of life in prison without parole Wednesday for the murders of 17 people at a Parkland, Fl., high school in 2018. Last month, a jury spared him the death penalty. Broward County Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer scheduled a hearing that began Tuesday to allow victims’ family members to express themselves, the Wall Street Journal report. With the defendant seated before them, family members came forward one by one to deliver remarks. Some considered the jury's decision not to impose the death sentence a miscarriage of justice, while others spoke of the searing pain they continue to grapple with. Max Schachter, whose son Alex Schachter was killed in the shooting, criticized assertions during the death-penalty phase that Cruz’s mental-health needs had gone unaddressed, despite therapy and other services he had received over the years. Schachter challenged the contention that Cruz suffered brain damage as a child, saying the defendant carefully planned the massacre. “Society tried for almost two decades to try to rehabilitate him,” Schachter said. “He is a sociopath that does not deserve to live amongst us.” Meghan Petty, whose sister Alaina Petty was killed in the shooting, said she felt betrayed by the justice system. She called Cruz a “remorseless monster” who escaped the punishment he deserved. “What we’ve been told here is that 17 lives are worth nothing if you can make enough excuses for your actions,” Petty said. Cruz pleaded guilty last year to the murders of 17 people and the attempted murders of 17 others at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The three-month penalty trial focused solely on whether Cruz should be put to death or imprisoned for the rest of his life. Jurors considered aggravating factors that prosecutors argued warranted a death sentence and mitigating circumstances that defense lawyers said supported a life term. In the end, jurors didn’t agree unanimously on the death penalty, which is necessary under Florida law.

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A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

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