The Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School Shooting that occurred on Feb. 14, 2018, in Parkland, Florida resulted in the deaths of 17 people and left another 17 injured. The massacre, carried out by Nikolas Cruz, was a devastating incident to many families and friends and to our nation. According to History.com, the incident was the deadliest high-school shooting in the history of the United States.
For a parent, the Parkland school shooting is a worst case scenario feared by many. That morning, parents sent their children to school with the expectation that their child would be safe; instead, they endured a horrific nightmare.
The emotional trauma of losing a loved one never goes away, but time often helps loved ones focus on the positive memory of those who they lost. Aside from the event itself, one of the most challenging experiences for victims is reliving the trauma when the case goes to court. However, Cruz pleaded guilty, sparing the victims’ families and friends a lengthy trial.
New Florida Law Affected The Parkland Murderer’s Sentence
Notwithstanding, the sentencing hearing brought fresh trauma to many of those loved ones – thanks to a Florida law enacted in 2017 which mandates that juries in capital cases must agree unanimously in order to return a death sentence. On Oct. 22, 2022, two jurors recommended life in prison without the possibility of parole for Cruz. Under Florida law, the judge has no mechanism to overrule such decisions by a jury. It’s worth noting that Alabama in now the only U.S. state that requires just a simple majority by jurors to recommend a death sentence.
However, the Parkland victims’ loved ones – and survivors of the horrific rampage – addressed Cruz and his lawyers just prior to his life-without-parole-sentence announcement.
‘Miserable For The Rest Of Your Pathetic Life’
The depth of pain of the families of the Parkland victims – and the massacre’s survivors – was only partially reflected in the short time that they had to speak directly to the murderer and his defense. For example, NPR reported that Lori Alhadeff, the mother of Alyssa Alhadeff (who was 14 when Cruz shot and killed her) told Cruz that she hopes he is “miserable for the rest of your pathetic life. My hope for you is that the pain of what you did to my family burns and traumatizes you every day.” Another family member of a victim wished for Cruz to “burn in hell.”
One of the Parkland victims that Cruz attempted to murder was present in court and spoke directly to Cruz. She stated “the idea that you, a coldblooded killer, can actually live each day, eat your meals and put your head down at night – it seems completely unjust. The only comfort I have is that your life in prison will be filled with horror and fear.”
Understandably, anger was aimed toward the defense team that was able to compel the jury to not sentence Cruz to death because of aggravating factors that they forced the Parkland sentencing hearing jury to consider, which some experts found questionable.
Parkland Murderer ‘Beat The Judicial System’
For example, Theresa Robinovitz – the grandmother of Alyssa Alhadeff – stated in open court that she had an idea for how Cruz could spend his life in prison, which was write a book about how Cruz and his counsel “beat the judicial system” according to USA Today.
The pain felt by the loved ones of the Parkland shooting victims was evident, and it is important for victims to be able to address the person convicted of taking away their loved one. While it may not bring much peace in such a horrific situation, it is important that the voices of the families of victims are not silenced and that they have the opportunity to relay some of the pain and anguish they are experiencing due to the convicted murder’s actions.
The question as to why most states now require a jury to unanimously agree on a death sentence remains open for debate and adds to the growing discourse surrounding the pros and cons of capital punishment in America.