Judge sentences Parkland school shooter to 34 consecutive life sentences
FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida – Broward County Judge Elizabeth Scherer convicted the Parkland school shooter to 34 consecutive mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole. One for each of the 34 victims: 17 killed and 17 injured during the 2018 Valentine’s Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Scherer also ordered Nikolas Cruz not to profit from the crime, and she cited other orders assuring him that he would never have a penny to his name by allowing Broward County to use its victim restitution funds and to pay a list of costs, including public defense costs that kept away from the death penalty.
The sentences for the 16 attempted murders include a mandatory minimum of 20 years in prison under Florida’s “10-20-Life” law, which requires a minimum sentence for certain crimes involving the use of a firearm. One count of attempted murder carries a minimum mandatory prison term of 25 years.
“He was remanded to the custody of the Department of Corrections” Scherer said before deputies quickly escorted Cruz out of the courtroom and his defense team walked out with him.
Scherer hugged each prosecutor. Relatives of the victims remained in the courtroom. Some hugged each other. Some hugged both deputies and prosecutors. Tears turned into smiles for some. More than four years long legal process is finally over.
Before the formal sentencing, Cruz answered Scherer’s questions in the affirmative: He said he had been receiving psychiatric treatment and was alert during the proceedings. Scherer then addressed the victims’ families and said they were a “wonderful, strong community” and that Marjory Stoneman Douglas was a “successful” school.
“I know you’re going to be fine because you have each other,” Scherer said.
Cruz’s guilty plea last year triggered a three-month penalty phase that resulted in a split jury and a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole on Oct. 13. A majority of the jury wanted Cruz to be sentenced to death, but in 2016 Florida law began requiring unanimous agreement.
Scherer had no choice after three of the 12 jurors sided with Cruz’s defense that his late biological mother’s alcohol abuse during pregnancy damaged his brain and that his mental health was impaired through no fault of his own. Scherer said Cruz has 30 days to file an appeal.
The second day of victim impact statements without limitations
Scherer allowed grieving relatives to speak on Tuesday and on Wednesday directly at Cruz without emotion. Some also spoke to his public defense team — despite public defender Gordon Weekes’ team concerns and opposition.
Manuel Oliver, who lost his 17-year-old son Joaquin Oliver, was the last speaker at the two-day hearing in Fort Lauderdale. Oliver said he decided to stay out of the courtroom because he didn’t want the backlash to cause a mistrial.
“You’re going to suffer and you’re going to go through pain, a lot of pain,” Oliver told Cruz, also addressing the defense, saying it was “unrealistic” and “crazy” for the hearing to focus on their children for a moment.
Joaquin’s girlfriend Victoria Gonzalez blamed Cruz for her distrust of people. She said she was “rooting” for him before the shooting after she sensed something was wrong with him.
“I’m sorry you’ve never seen the love the world is capable of,” Gonzalez told Cruz.
Annika Dworet read the names of the 17 homicide victims: Nicholas, Peter, Carmen, Alex, Helena, Meadow, Alaina, Joaquin, Gina, Cara, Luke, Chris, Jaime, Aaron, Martin, Scott and Alyssa.
“After today, no one will talk about this killer, he will be forgotten,” said Annika Dworet, the grieving mother of 17-year-old victim Nikolas Dworet.
Lori Alhadeff, a Broward County school board member, said Feb. 14, 208, was the most painful day of her life because her 14-year-old daughter, Alyssa, was the “heartbeat” of her family.
“May your life be horrible, painful and show no mercy,” Lori Alhadeff told Cruz.
Alyssa’s father, Dr. Ilan Alhadeff, said the justice system failed him and his family. He also said that they will be committed to continuing their advocacy work in memory of their beautiful girlfriend.
“We will make our schools safe from animals like you,” said Dr. Ilan Alhadef to Cruz.
Alice’s uncle David Alhadeff, a teacher in Maryland, spoke with Cruz via Zoom. He was in his classroom.
“You deserve a chance to know that justice will prevail at some point, causing great anguish, minute by minute, day by day,” said David Alhadeff.
Samantha Fuentes, who survived the injuries, told Cruz that the three students killed themselves because of him. She described him as a “hateful bigot” and said: “racism is not a mental illness”.
“You’re going to have the most extraordinary, pathetic existence,” Fuentes told Cruz.
Linda Beigel Schulman, Scott Biegel’s grieving mother, said it was “real justice” for each of the families to kill him.
Beigel Schulman also said it gave her comfort knowing she would have to worry about her safety for the rest of her life in a maximum security prison.
“Child killers are very hated and hated in prison,” Beigel Schulman said. “I welcome the day I was told you were tortured and taken away for your cold-blooded, premeditated, calculated, heinous murders… you deserve nothing less.”
The only time Cruz responded to something a relative said was when Jennifer Guttenberg, the mother of murder victim Jaime Taylor Guttenberg, told him it was disrespectful to wear his face mask. Cruz quickly took it off.
A representative reads a statement to April Schentrup
A representative reads a statement for Phil Schentrup
The first day of a victim impact statement with no limits
Ines Maria Hixon
Patricia Padauy Oliver
Anthony Montalto III
Anthony Montalto II
Bree and Eric Wikander
The representative reads the statement
Watch the report at 5 p.m
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