Florida officials and family members of the Parkland school shooting victims are expressing outrage and heartbreak after ato spare the gunman the death penalty. Seventeen people — 14 students and three staff members — were killed in the 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
“I feel angry. I feel rage,” Patricia Oliver, who lost her 17-year-old son Joaquin in the shooting, told CBS News. “I feel that justice wasn’t served.”
Jury foreman Benjamin Thomas said three of the 12 jurors voted against the death penalty for Nikolas Cruz, a former student at the school wholast year to 17 counts of first-degree murder. He will instead receive a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Under Florida law, a death sentence requires a unanimous recommendation from jurors.
Thomas said the jury wasincluding the defense’s argument that the shooter was mentally ill in part because of his mother’s drug and alcohol abuse while she was pregnant.
Thomasthat he did not agree with the outcome.
“It didn’t go the way I would’ve liked, or the way I voted, but that’s how the jury system works,” he said. “Everybody gets their vote. Everybody gets to decide. We went through all of the evidence, and some of the jurors just felt that was the appropriate sentence.”
Families of the victims wereby the decision.
“You’ve sent the message out there to everyone … you will just get off by pleading that you’re insane,” said Anne Ramsay, whose daughter Helena was killed in the shooting.
Joaquin Oliver’s father watched the proceedings from Tulsa, Oklahoma. His wife said he decided not to come to the trial in person because it would have been too painful. Instead, he is traveling across the country in a school bus embellished with his son’s nickname, “Guac,” on it to promote the prevention of gun violence.
“We have the death penalty option in Florida and we don’t use it when 17 people die through a massacre inside a school,” he told CBS News after the trial.
Linda Beigel Schulman, whose son Scott Beigel was a teacher who died in the shooting, said the death penalty “would have meant that we made sure he was put to death like he made sure he killed our loved ones.”
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis also disagreed with the jury’s decision, calling it “a miscarriage of justice.”
“The only appropriate sentence for the massacre of 17 innocent people is the death penalty,”.
The prosecution late Thursday filed a motion asking for an investigation into a juror who said she felt threatened by another member during deliberations,reported.
Judge Elizabeth Scherer is set to formally issue Cruz’s life sentence on November 1.