Parkland School Shooter Faces Death Penalty as Trial Begins

The gunman who killed 14 students and three adults at a high school in Parkland, Florida in 2018 has gone on trial, with jurors set to determine if he will be sentenced to death.

The penalty phase of confessed gunman Nikolas Cruz’s trial began on July 18 with opening remarks from prosecutors.

Prosecutors argued that seven aggravating factors in the shooting call for the death penalty.

Prosecutor Mike Satz described Cruz as “cold, calculative, manipulative, and deadly” and argued that the killings were “especially heinous, atrocious or cruel.”

Satz also said that the attack disrupted a government function and was a “planned, systematic… mass murder.”

“These aggravating factors far outweigh any mitigating circumstances, anything about the defendant’s background, anything about his childhood, anything about his schooling, anything about his mental health, anything about his therapy, anything about his care,” Satz said.

In a rare move, defense lawyers opted to delay their opening statement until they present evidence later in the trial.

Cruz pleaded guilty to 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder last October.

The defense is pushing for Cruz to be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole instead.

Defense lawyers are expected to provide information on so-called mitigating factors, including Cruz’s upbringing, reported mental health issues, and claims that he was sexually abused as a child.

Cruz is the deadliest mass shooter to ever appear before a jury in the United States. It is also rare for a mass shooter to appear before a jury in the country, as they are frequently either killed by police or take their own lives.

The trial is expected to last four to six months and the jury must be unanimous to sentence Cruz to death.

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