Parkland school shooter’s death penalty trial to start on Monday morning

The families affected by the 2018 Valentine’s Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland have been waiting for justice.

Attorneys are preparing to deliver their opening statements in front of the jury on the first day of Nikolas Cruz’s death penalty trial.

Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer scheduled the trial to start at 9 a.m., on Monday, July 18, in a courtroom in Fort Lauderdale.

“Every day is a new day that we suffer and we don’t see a final chapter in this,” Manuel Oliver said.

Cruz, then 19 years old, used an AR-15 rifle to shoot the Venezuelan-American father’s 17-year-old son Joaquin Oliver four times. The tragedy turned Manuel Oliver into a vocal activist.

Cruz shot and killed seven 14-year-old students Alaina Petty, Alex Schachter, Alyssa Alhadeff, Cara Loughran, Gina Montalto, Jamie Guttenberg and Martin Duque.

Cruz killed two 15-year-old boys, Peter Wang and Luke Hoyer, and he killed students Carmen Schentrup, 16; Nicholas Dworet, 17; Helena Ramsay, 17; and Meadow Pollack, 18.

Cruz also killed three school employees: Scott Beigel, 35, cross country coach and geography teacher; Aaron Feis, 37, an assistant football coach and security monitor; and Chris Hixon, 49, an athletic director and wrestling coach.

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

In June, seven men and five women swore to serve as jurors in the case. They will have to decide if Cruz deserves to be executed for his crimes.

Attorney David Weinstein, a partner with Jones Walker Waechter in Miami, is not working on Cruz’s case, but he has been following it closely. He expects prosecutors to focus on the premeditated aspects and the heinous actions.

“They will point out the planning that took place both in items recovered from Cruz, to statements he made, to postings he made on social media,” Weinstein said.

Defense attorneys will likely harp on his mental condition and approach aspects of Cruz’s childhood and background. Weinstein said they will focus on evidence implying that Cruz was operating under duress.

Scherer estimates the trial will run for four to five months. The jury’s decision must be unanimous for the death penalty to stand. Otherwise, Scherer will have to sentence Cruz to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Related stories

Oct. 20: Parkland killer pleads guilty to school massacre, apologizes to victims’ families

April 4: Jury selection begins for Parkland school shooter’s penalty phase trial

June 29: Parkland school shooter’s trial: Judge swears in jury despite defense objections

Related social media

Tonight, learn more about the 7 men and 5 women who will consider whether #NikolasCruz should be sentenced to life or death. ▶️ Court is in recess until Tuesday for a pre-trial hearing. Opening statements are scheduled for July 18. More: #MeettheJurors

— Christina Boomer Vazquez, M.S. (@CBoomerVazquez) June 29, 2022

The penalty phase of the #NikolasCruz trial begins Monday with the process of finding a death-qualified jury as prosecutors seek the death penalty in the Parkland shooting case. #PenaltyPhase #JurySelection #MSD #ParklandShooting #CapitalCase 1/

— Christina Boomer Vazquez, M.S. (@CBoomerVazquez) April 4, 2022

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