Parkland Shooter’s Defense Team Hopes To Avoid Death Penalty

Parkland Shooter's Defense Team Hopes To Avoid Death Penalty

Mass Shooter’s Lawyers Have Just One Goal…

( – On Valentine’s Day 2018, Nikolas Cruz opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, killing 17 people and injuring 17 more. It’s the third deadliest mass school shooting in the United States, behind the Uvalde and Sandy Hook tragedies. On October 20, 2021, Cruz pleaded guilty to 34 charges related to the incident. In July 2022, his penalty trial began with prosecutors seeking the death sentence. This week, the defense started its case, hoping to avoid capital punishment.

Prosecutors’ Argument

The prosecutors laid out their arguments over three weeks, discussing the shooting, the individual victims, the injuries they suffered, and even took the jurors to the high school to paint a clear picture of Cruz’s actions that day. Considering the brutal nature of the crime and the fact that he pleaded guilty with no conditions, they’re adamant the shooter should face a death sentence for his crimes.

Defense Paints a Picture

Defense attorneys didn’t give an opening statement at the beginning of the trial, opting to wait until the prosecution rested its case. On Monday, August 22, the lead public defender, Melisa McNeill, gave her initial remarks, lasting 86 minutes. She told the jury they should spare Cruz’s life because he was a victim of his mother’s drug and alcohol abuse while she was pregnant. According to McNeill, her client suffered from various mental health disorders and developmental delays that caused an “irretrievably broken” due to his mother’s substance use.

The defense reportedly plans to submit a controversial brain scan called a quantitative electroencephalogram (qEEG) to prove Cruz suffered fetal alcohol syndrome, but it’s unclear whether Broward County judge Elizabeth Scherer would allow it into evidence. Cruz’s lawyers also plan to call mental health experts to testify regarding the shooter’s so-called troubled life.

The defense has already lost out on some evidence. In 2021, the judge ruled the attorneys could not use mistakes made by the law enforcement agencies and school officials as evidence.

Clearly, the defense plans to paint Cruz in a sympathetic light. Yet, the defendant admitted to premeditation and even had an escape plan that he revealed to authorities.

If the court sentences Cruz to death, which requires a unanimous jury decision, the primary method in Florida is lethal injection. However, he would have the option to die by electric chair, should he choose.

There’s no timeline as to when the defense will rest its case.

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