WATCH LIVE: Closing arguments begin today in penalty phase for Parkland school shooter
The defense and the prosecution teams are in the courtroom Tuesday morning preparing to begin closing arguments when the jury arrives.
The rows reserved for the families of the victims are fuller than usual. In the first row are the parents of Scott Beigel, Linda Beigel-Schulman, and Michael Schulman; the parents of Luke Hoyer, Gena and Tom Hoyer, and his sister, Abby Hoyer.
Broward County Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer told the prosecution and defense teams on Monday that each side would have about two and a half hours to give their closing statements.
The prosecution will go first, followed by the defense. The state will not be able to give a rebuttal argument after the defense.
The jury is expected to get the case on Wednesday.
Nikolas Cruz, now 24, pleaded guilty to 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder last year. The murder counts allowed only two sentences: Life in prison without the possibility of parole or death.
The prosecution rested on Aug. 4 after calling 91 witnesses in 12 days, and the public defenders who are trying to save his life rested on Sept. 14 after calling 26 witnesses in 11 days. The prosecution continued with rebuttal and rested on Sept. 27 after calling seven witnesses during four days in court.
Florida requires a jury’s unanimous vote to recommend death for each of the 17 counts of murder. But only one death verdict out of the 17 is enough for Scherer to consider the death penalty.
The defense aims to convince one of the 12 jurors to choose life for all 17 murder cases, so Cruz can avoid execution. If Scherer sentences Cruz to the death penalty, and he has exhausted all appeals, then Cruz will face execution.