Florida Circuit Court Judge Elizabeth Scherer formally sentenced the 2018 Parkland, Florida, school shooting’s perpetrator Nikolas Cruz to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole Wednesday.
A jury recommended sentencing Cruz to life without the possibility of parole on Oct. 13, rather than unanimously voting for the death penalty.
He had pleaded guilty in October 2021 to murdering 14 students and three teachers as well as 17 attempted murders at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Florida law requires a court to impose a life sentence without the possibility of parole if a jury recommends it.
Prosecutors said the mass shooting was premeditated and calculated, referencing Cruz’s online search history prior to the killings and social media statements expressing murderous desire.
His defense argued for life in prison and no parole possibility, with attorney Melisa McNeill saying, “His brain is broken; he’s a damaged human being.”
After the jury made its recommendations, Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis expressed disappointment that Cruz was not sentenced to death.
“I think that if you have a death penalty at all, that that is a case where you’re massacring those students with pre-meditation and utter disregard for basic humanity, that you deserve the death penalty,” DeSantis said.
“That is a case where you’re massacring those students with premeditation and utter disregard for basic humanity … you deserve the death penalty,” DeSantis said during an appearance in Cape Coral.
The mass shooting spurred lawmakers in 2018 to pass gun and school safety measures, which were signed by then-Gov. Rick Scott.
DeSantis, who was elected governor later that year, pushed in 2019 to remove then-Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel from office over the handling of the shooting. The state Senate ultimately approved Israel’s ouster.
DeSantis also decried the lengthy legal process after the school massacre. “You know, they used to do this, he would have been executed in six months. He’s guilty, everybody knew that from the beginning. And yet it takes years and years in this legal system. That is not serving the interest of victims,” DeSantis, a Harvard-educated lawyer, said.
Broward County Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer did not immediately sentence Cruz. Under state law, juries have to unanimously recommend death for the sentence to be imposed on defendants
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