Nikolas Cruz, the profoundly disturbed young man who carried out a massacre in the hallways of his former high school four years ago, igniting an anti-gun-violence movement led by students raised in an era of mass shootings, should not be condemned to death and instead should spend the rest of his life in prison, a state jury said on Thursday.
The jury of seven men and five women decided that Mr. Cruz should get life in prison without the possibility of parole for all 17 first-degree murder counts in the case, following less than a day of deliberations in a grueling and often emotional sentencing trial.
"Disturbed" is a conclusion, one which defense counsel wanted the jury to draw. There is no category for "disturbed" in criminal law, though there is "disturbance of the peace," which is slightly less than the murder of seventeen innocent strangers. The Google search engine would take the curious to "temporary insanity," which defense attorneys did not plead, lest they themselves be accused of being insane. Nonetheless, Mazzei reports
Nikolas Cruz was born a damaged person, Melisa McNeill, the lead public defender in his sentencing trial, told jurors during her closing argument on Tuesday.
She described Mr. Cruz as “poisoned” by his biological mother’s heavy drinking while she was pregnant with him. That led to fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, which was misdiagnosed by experts throughout Mr. Cruz’s life, Ms. McNeill said, despite the slew of developmental problems and sometimes violent behavior he exhibited, which overwhelmed his adoptive mother.
But as another Times reporter noted ten days ago
Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz told a prosecution psychiatrist he began contemplating a mass murder during middle school, doing extensive research on earlier killers to learn their methods and mistakes to shape his own plans, video played at his penalty trial showed Monday.
Cruz told Dr. Charles Scott during a March jailhouse interview that five years before he murdered 17 at Parkland's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2018, he read about the 1999 murder of 13 at Colorado's Columbine High School, which first sparked the idea of his own mass killing.
Cruz told Scott how Columbine, the 2007 murder of 32 at Virginia Tech University and the 2012 killing of 12 at a Colorado movie theater all played a part in his own preparation.
"I studied mass murderers and how they did it," Cruz told Scott. "How they planned, what they got and what they used." He said he learned to watch for people coming around corners to stop him, to keep some distance from people as he fired, to attack "as fast as possible" and, in the earlier attacks, "the police didn't do anything."
"I should have the opportunity to shoot people for about 20 minutes," Cruz said.
The Parkland attack was not the impulsive act of a "disturbed" (whatever that is) person, provoked by the victims, or induced by another immediate factor. It was a premeditated act of murder committed by someone with a history of violence, who conducted extensive research, purchased a semi-automatic weapon in 2018, and modified the firearm.
That is the portrait of someone less disturbed than evil. Many such people exist, notwithstanding our wish to the contrary. Some of the even were birthed by an alcoholic matter, and whose resulting condition may have gone misdiagnosed. Unlike Nikola Cruz, they are not bloodthirsty, nor so disciplined as to plan assiduously such a horrific crime. Today, a jury in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, determined to grant mercy, cast aside its duty to pursue justice.