The defense team focuses on the Parkland school shooter’s death penalty trial


The defense team in the trial of Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz rested its case Wednesday, with the judge admonishing its attorneys for what he described as a “level of professionalism” he had never experienced.

At the start of their case, lead defense attorney Melisa McNeill said they planned to call 80 witnesses, but the defense has called just 26 so far. Prosecutors told the judge they were not ready to continue their denials on Wednesday.

“We were waiting for another 40 witnesses,” said Attorney General Mike Satz, throwing up his hands.

State prosecutors’ refusal could happen as soon as September 27. Closing arguments can be held on October 3.

Cruz pleaded guilty last October to 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the February 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. This led to the current phase of his trial, which aims to determine his sentence.

Prosecutors have asked a jury to recommend the death penalty, while Cruz’s defense has asked for a prison sentence without parole. To recommend the death penalty, jurors must be unanimous. If they do, the judge may decide to follow their recommendation or sentence Cruz to life in prison.

Defense attorneys in presenting their case aimed to present mitigating factors to the jury, reasons why Cruz should not have been killed. They detailed lifelong struggles at home and school, including the birth of a woman who McNeill described as a drug and alcohol abuser who worked as a midwife while pregnant with Cruz.

Cruz also exhibited developmental and educational difficulties throughout his life that were not adequately addressed by his attorneys.

“His brain is broken; he is a damaged human being,” McNeill said in his opening statement of defense.

The prosecutor argued that Cruz’s decision to carry out the massacre, in which he killed 14 students and three school employees, was not based on a whim, but thought and calculated. The jury was presented with Cruz’s online search history in the months leading up to the shooting, along with comments on social media expressing a desire to kill people.

Their case featured impact statements from the victims’ families, including the many parents who spent their days around the shooter who stole not only their children, but the victims’ futures, marriages and grandchildren. that will never be celebrated.

Jurors also visited the scene of the shooting – building 1200 of the high school – which was sealed for trial. Inside, they found a scene littered with bullet holes, bloodstains, Valentine’s Day gifts and cards, other items left behind as students and teachers fled the shooting.