Fort Lauderdale, Florida CNN  — 

The Parkland school shooter has avoided the death penalty after a jury recommended he be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the February 2018 massacre at Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School – a move that left some of the victims’ loved ones disappointed and angry.

The jury’s recommendation Thursday, coming after a monthslong trial to decide Nikolas Cruz’s punishment, is not an official sentence; Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer still is expected to issue the gunman’s formal sentence on November 1. Under Florida law, however, she cannot depart from the jury’s recommendation of life.

Families of the gunman’s victims bowed or shook their heads as the verdict forms for each of the 17 people he killed were read in court Thursday morning. The jury found the aggravating factors presented by state prosecutors did not outweigh the mitigating circumstances – aspects of Cruz’s life and upbringing his defense attorneys said warranted only a life sentence.