Family members whose loved ones were killed in the Parkland school shooting were incensed Thursday after the jury recommended life in prison instead of the death penalty for gunman Nikolas Cruz.
“This should have been the death penalty, 100%,” said Lori Alhadeff, whose 14-year-old daughter Alyssa was killed. “I am so beyond disappointed and frustrated with this outcome. I cannot understand. I just don’t understand.”
Nikolas Cruz, now 24, had already admitted to killing 17 people, including 14 students, and wounding 17 others in the Feb. 14, 2018, massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in South Florida.
In a three-month penalty trial, prosecutors argued that Cruz should be executed for his actions. Under Florida law, a death sentence would’ve required all 12 jurors to agree. The jury foreman said more than one juror wanted to spare Cruz’s life.
“We went through all the evidence and some of the jurors just felt that was the appropriate sentence,” Benjamin Thomas told a local TV station. “I didn’t vote that way, so I’m not happy with how it worked out, but everyone has the right to decide for themselves.”
The families were less diplomatic.
“Today’s ruling was yet another gut punch for so many of us who devastatingly lost our loved ones,” said Tony Montalto, whose 14-year-old daughter Gina was killed. “Seventeen beautiful lives were cut short, by murder — heinous, pre-planned torturous murder. And the monster that killed them gets to live another day.”
Montalto said his statement was on behalf of Stand With Parkland, an organization he founded that is dedicated to ending school shootings.
Linda Beigel Schulman, whose husband Scott Beigel was killed, said Cruz “should be afraid every second of the day of his life.”
During the trial, Cruz’s attorneys argued that his life should be spared because he suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome triggered by his mother’s heavy drinking during pregnancy.
The argument evidently convinced multiple jurors, but it failed to reach Montalto.
“How can the mitigating factors make this shooter, who they recognized committed this terrible act — acts, plural — shooting, some victims more than once on a pass, pressing the barrel of his weapon to my daughter’s chest — that doesn’t outweigh that poor little what’s-his-name had a tough upbringing?” he asked at a press conference after the verdict.
“Our justice system should have been used to punish this shooter to the fullest extent of the law.”
Other parents directed their anger at the system itself. Lori Alhadeff asked, “What is the death penalty for?”
Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter Jaime was killed in the shooting, said he thought someone predisposed against the death penalty sneaked onto the jury.
“A juror did not tell the truth to get on this jury, and because of that 17 families have been failed,” he said at the press conference.
Guttenberg also criticized how the defense conducted the trial. Defense attorneys rested after calling only 25 of 80 listed witnesses, prompting any angry rebuke from the judge.
Florida is one of 27 states where the death penalty is legal. The state last executed someone in August 2019.
“There are crimes for which the only just penalty is death,” wrote ex-Florida governor and current candidate Charlie Christ, in a message that was retweeted by Guttenberg. “The Parkland families and community deserved that degree of justice.”
With News Wire Services
©2022 New York Daily News. Visit nydailynews.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
This content is published through a licensing agreement with Acquire Media using its NewsEdge technology.