Here’s what we know: Nicholas Cruz, 24, avoided the death penalty when he pleaded guilty to killing 17 people at Stoneman Douglas High School in Marjorie, Florida, in February 2018.
A jury on Thursday recommended a life sentence without parole, a decision that angered many of the victims’ families who said it was unfair to allow Cruz to live.
“Prison life is not punishment! That’s exactly what he wants,” Max Schachter, father of 14-year-old Alex Schachter murdered in the Holocaust, wrote on Twitter. He said the decision meant Cruz could be protected while in custody and able to “read, draw, answer phone calls and emails” while “his 17 victims suffered terror before he killed them.”
These are the victims of the Parkland school shooting
There’s still a lot we don’t know about what Cruz’s life in prison will look like, most of which will likely be resolved when he is officially sentenced early next month.
But what happens next:
‘The verdict is another intuition’: Parkland victim’s father speaks after Cruz jury recommendation
The jury’s recommendation on Thursday was just that: a recommendation, not a formal verdict. Since Thursday, jurors have weighed in on what they called intense deliberations, with one juror reporting feeling threatened; the local sheriff’s office is investigating an allegation.
Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer is expected to formally sentence Cruz on Nov. 1 at 9 a.m., but under Florida law, judges cannot deviate from the jury’s recommendation of a life sentence.
Victims and family members are expected to speak before sentencing.
But as far as the verdict itself is concerned, the jury’s recommendation is final, Broward County public defender Gordon Weeks said at a news conference Thursday, adding in the state that “victims are at the forefront of the lawsuit. Constitutional rights at every stage.”
“The court will respect that right and give them an opportunity to be heard. We appreciate that, we recognize it, and it should be followed,” Weeks said. “However, we also have to admit that the jurors in the case came to a verdict after days of very, very difficult, distressing evidence, they heard everything, weighed everything, and they came to a verdict. We have to respect that.”
Cruz is also entitled to a statement in sentencing, according to Florida-based criminal defense attorney Janet Johnson.
Cruz, who has been serving time at the Broward County Jail since 2018, was also sentenced to 25 years in state prison after pleading guilty to assaulting a prison officer in November of that year.
After sentencing, he could spend several weeks in county custody before being detained by the Florida Department of Corrections and transported to one of several reception centers in the state.
On Thursday, Weeks said Cruz may be taken to a South Florida reception center.
Johnson said he would spend several weeks at the reception center “performing physical and mental health checks”. “They’ll look at his records, they’ll look at the level of crime he’s been convicted of, which is obviously the highest, and they’ll recommend a facility somewhere in the state.”
According to the Florida Department of Corrections’ website, the facility chosen is based on “review of the severity of the (prisoner’s) offense, sentence, time remaining, prior criminal record, escape history, prison adjustments and other factors.”
“The worst offenders with the longest sentences and those least likely to adjust to institutional life are placed in safer facilities,” the Department of Corrections website states. Based on these assessments, the individual is then transferred to the facility deemed most appropriate.
Johnson said that since Cruz is a high-risk offender, he is likely to be in jail with other high-profile or “very dangerous offenders.”
“But he’s not going to be isolated, which of course is a real threat to him because there may be people who want to do ‘prison justice’ who feel like he’s not getting enough in court,” Johnson added.
According to the Corrections Department’s handbook, there are several categories of custody for prisoners, with close custody for those who “must be within armed confines or under direct armed supervision when outside security.”
The Department of Corrections did not respond to CNN’s questions about what kind of supervision Cruz might be placed in.
Lead defense attorney Melisa McNeill also hinted that Cruz would face jail time in the final arguments of the death penalty trial, saying he would “wait to die” in the facility “either of natural causes or otherwise. Anything that could have happened to him while he was in jail.”
In a news conference after the jury’s recommendation, Linda Berger Schulman, mother of geography teacher Scott Berger killed in high school, said Cruz would “spend every minute left” Had to look back at his life (in prison).”
“I want him to have fear every second of his life, just as he brought fear to every one of our loved ones who were murdered by him,” she said. “He should be living in that fear, he should be in that fear every second of his life.”
Parents of Parkland victims, including Schacht, noted that Cruz would still go through parts of their lives while their children were robbed.
Johnson said that includes receiving mail and meeting visitors, which he may be entitled to. Johnson added that he could also have a tablet from which he could email and text others.
The Department of Corrections’ website states that prisoners and their families can communicate through “interactive stationary kiosks as well as tablets provided in general population housing units.” All of Florida’s major correctional institutions offer these services, according to the website.
“You can see the arguments of (victims’) families saying, ‘We can’t do that,'” Johnson added. “That’s understandable.”
The Corrections Department also didn’t answer CNN’s questions about what kind of mental health treatment Cruz might receive in prison.
During the trial, the Broward County Sheriff’s Office released more than 30 pages of text and drawings by Cruz, revealing disturbing thoughts about his time in custody, focusing on guns, blood and death. “I just want to go to death row. I don’t want to live. Please help me get to death row,” Cruz wrote on one page. He, on the other hand, addressed his family, telling them he was heartbroken and hoped that by taking painkillers and extreme diets and died of a heart attack.
Also in prison, Cruz painted pictures of bullets, guns and people who were shot. He wrote that he “never wanted to be alive” and that he wished he would never wake up when he died. “My life is miserable and always will be”.
In his closing arguments, McNeill said his defense team argued that Cruz was a “brain-damaged, psychotic” individual who had fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, caused by his mother’s drug and alcohol abuse during pregnancy. of.
McNeil said Cruz appeared to be in control of his behavior in court because “he was on medication and he was receiving psychiatric treatment. He was being treated by a prison psychologist.”
Johnson said Cruz will undergo a psychiatric examination when he arrives at the reception center, which will help determine his diagnosis and the medications he may need.