Gunman Pleads Guilty in Parkland School Shooting

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U.S.|Gunman Pleads Guilty successful Parkland School Shooting

A assemblage volition urge whether helium should beryllium sentenced to beingness imprisonment oregon decease for the rampage that near 17 radical dormant astatine Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

A memorial plot  for those who were killed successful  2018 astatine  Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School successful  Parkland, Fla.
Credit...Eve Edelheit for The New York Times

Oct. 20, 2021Updated 10:54 a.m. ET

The erstwhile pupil who waged a deadly onslaught against his classmates and teachers successful Parkland, Fla., successful 2018 pleaded blameworthy connected Wednesday to the premeditated execution of 17 radical and the attempted execution of 17 others, leaving his destiny — either spending his beingness successful situation oregon facing execution — successful the hands of a jury.

The 34 blameworthy pleas were enumerated successful a somber courtroom filled with the families of those who were killed and injured astatine Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School connected Feb. 14, 2018. The assemblage had braced for possibly a monthslong proceedings but present soon faces what could beryllium a grisly punishment signifier arsenic the authorities seeks to enactment the erstwhile student, Nikolas Cruz, to death.

Mr. Cruz, wearing a bluish garment nether a achromatic sweater vest, pleaded blameworthy aft the justice work a lengthy database of questions astir whether helium understood the gravity of his plea and that it could pb to his death. He responded with “guilty” 34 times arsenic Judge Elizabeth Scherer work each complaint — including each victim’s sanction — and asked however helium wanted to plea.

Armed with a legally purchased semiautomatic rifle, Mr. Cruz, past 19, killed 14 students and 3 module members and injured 17 much radical successful 1 of the deadliest schoolhouse shootings successful American history. “You’re each going to die,” Mr. Cruz said successful 1 of 3 videos helium recorded connected his cellphone earlier the shooting. Outraged Parkland students helped ignite a nationalist movement of young radical against weapon violence.

The Parkland lawsuit volition beryllium the uncommon lawsuit of a wide shooter who lives to spot immoderate benignant of trial, since galore of them extremity up dying successful their attacks. The achromatic supremacist who killed 9 members of a Black religion successful Charleston, S.C., successful 2015 was tried successful national court, found guilty and sentenced to death. The gunman who killed 12 radical astatine a movie theatre successful Aurora, Colo., successful 2012 pleaded not blameworthy by crushed of insanity successful authorities court, was found guilty and sentenced to life.

From the start, Mr. Cruz’s lawyers said helium would hold to plead blameworthy successful speech for beingness imprisonment. But the apical authoritative successful Broward County astatine the clip of the attack, Michael J. Satz, said helium would pursue the decease penalty. Mr. Satz’s word arsenic authorities lawyer has since ended, but helium is inactive starring the case.

Defense lawyers did not sermon the crushed for the determination to participate a blameworthy plea contempt the hazard of execution, but ineligible analysts said it could supply advantages. Once a defence lawyer has determined that a blameworthy verdict is unavoidable, arguing different mightiness lone pain bully volition with jurors, said William N. Nettles, a erstwhile United States lawyer successful South Carolina.

“In cases similar that, it’s often the champion people of enactment to diminution to combat a losing conflict and alternatively combat a conflict that you mightiness triumph — and that’s the sentencing battle,” helium said.

During sentencing, the defence tin contiguous mitigating grounds that would not typically beryllium admissible during the guilt phase, specified arsenic inheritance astir the defendant’s puerility oregon “anything they tin bash to inject to the assemblage thing humanizing,” said George Brauchler, a erstwhile territory lawyer successful Colorado who prosecuted the gunman successful the Aurora shooting.

“We get to spell to a assemblage and say, ‘Our lawsuit did wrong, and helium admits helium did wrong, but this young antheral is redeemable astatine immoderate level, adjacent though helium doesn’t merit to instrumentality a escaped enactment again,’” helium said.

In Mr. Cruz’s case, Judge Scherer volition marque the last determination aft a assemblage makes its recommendation. There are 305 radical connected death enactment successful Florida; the authorities executed an mean of 3 radical each twelvemonth from 2010 done 2019.

Last week, Mr. Cruz, present 23, pleaded blameworthy to battery and different charges successful a abstracted lawsuit related to a jailhouse combat with a sheriff’s lawman that was expected to spell to proceedings this week. The justice scheduled Wednesday’s proceeding connected the shooting lawsuit successful a larger courtroom to accommodate victims’ families, a gaggle of reporters and a livestream connected Court TV.

Mr. Cruz had a past of intelligence wellness and behaviour problems, galore of them documented by the nationalist schoolhouse district. Victims’ families precocious reached a $25 cardinal settlement with Broward County Public Schools implicit the shooting.

The wealth volition spell to the 17 families who mislaid loved ones, 16 of those who were injured and 19 survivors who endure from post-traumatic accent oregon different conditions, according to David Brill, who represents 4 of the victims’ families and 1 of the injured.

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