Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz formally sentenced

By Mike Hayes and Aditi Sangal, CNN

Updated 5:55 PM ET, Wed November 2, 2022
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3:18 p.m. ET, November 2, 2022

Parkland shooter removes his mask in court after victim's mother says wearing it is "disrespectful"

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Jennifer Guttenberg, the mother of Parkland victim Jaime Guttenberg, told the court that yesterday she put out a message that she wasn't going to speak at the hearing, but she changed her mind.

Addressing murderer Nikolas Cruz directly, Guttenberg told him: "you shouldn't be sitting there with a mask on your face."

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Pool

"It's disrespectful to be hiding your expressions under your mask," she said. "When we as the families are sitting here, talking to you."

After she made the comment, Cruz removed his mask.

Guttenberg continued, accusing Cruz of lowering himself in his seat in court, "hunched over, trying to make yourself look innocent when you are not."

"Because you admitted what you did, and everybody knows what you did," she added.

3:13 p.m. ET, November 2, 2022

"I can't make friends, and I can't build relationships" since the Parkland shooting, victim's girlfriend says

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In her victim impact statement, Parkland school shooting victim Joaquin Oliver's girlfriend, Victoria Gonzalez, spoke of the trauma she lives with after the shooting.

"But now I'm very alone, and I'm very isolated. And I can't make friends, and I can't build relationships, because I'm looking over my shoulder, even emotionally, I can't feel safe. I can't trust people," she said Wednesday.

Gonzalez spoke while wearing Oliver's t-shirt that he wore the night before he was killed, which read, in Spanish, "You with bullets, I with balls."

She contrasted the love she received from Joaquin with the hate she said Nikolas Cruz carried in his body.

"Joaquin loved me. For all of my flaws. For everything. He saw the capacity to grow ... He saw light shining through the cracks," she said. I'm sorry that you never saw the love that the world is capable of giving ... I would have wished you the love that I experienced before you led me to the experience of sitting in this courtroom listening to the medical examiner tell me that my best friend's head was only held together by the skin of his scalp after you were done with him."

Referring to the jury's decision that Cruz be sentenced to life in prison without parole instead of death, she said: "My justice does not lie in knowing if you live or if you die. My justice lives in knowing that I loved."

3:01 p.m. ET, November 2, 2022

Parkland survivor tells shooter: "Without your stupid gun, you are nothing"

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Sam Fuentes, who was shot and survived the massacre in Parkland, directly addressed the shooter during her statement in court.

"You might remember me," Fuentes said to Nikolas Cruz. "We walked the same hallways." She added that they were in ROTC together.

During the shooting, Fuentes said that she watched Cruz kill two of her friends as he "sprayed my classroom with bullets," and that she was shot in the leg. She said that she has scars on her leg from the "hot shrapnel" that was lodged inside.

Fuentes asked Cruz in court if he remembers her face because she "could have sworn" that they "locked eyes" during the massacre.

Fuentes said that in the aftermath of the shooting she has dealt with PTSD, suicidal ideations, and "constant fear someone ... will finish off the job" of killing her. 

She told Cruz "you are nobody" and "you are not special," calling him unremarkable, pathetic and a "hateful bigot with an AR-15 and a god complex."

"I assure you you will not be famous for this," Fuentes said to Cruz, adding that those who died in the massacre "will have a legacy much more important than you."

"Without your stupid gun, you are nothing," she told him.
2:29 p.m. ET, November 2, 2022

"Alyssa was the heartbeat of our family," her parents say

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Parents of Parkland school shooting victim Alyssa Alhadeff, 14, painted a picture of their daughter's life in their victim impact statement ahead of the shooter's formal sentencing.

"Alyssa was the type of kid that brought people together with her beautiful smile and contagious life. She deserved so much more time here on earth. Alyssa was the heartbeat of our family," said her mother, Lori Alhadeff, on Wednesday.

Speaking of the day that she saw Alyssa's dead body, she said, "I tried to warm her body with my hands. She was so cold. I remember that I touched her in the multiple areas where Alyssa was shot ... All I wanted to do was bring Alyssa back to life."

Lori Alhadeff said Alyssa was robbed of "a lifetime of memories," and will never go through the milestones of life, such as graduating high school or going to college.

She said she hoped that Alyssa's killer, Nikolas Cruz, is "miserable for the rest of your pathetic life. My hope for you is that the pain of what you did to my family burns and traumatizes you every day."

Alyssa's father, Ilan Alhadeff, said he felt "angry and frustrated" with the judicial system and that he does not feel his family has closure after Cruz avoided the death penalty.

"What I see is that the system values this animal's life over the 17 now dead. Worse, we sent a message to the next killer out there that the death penalty will not apply to mass killing," he said.

"We will go on glorifying Alyssa's life ... We'll make sure that everyone remembers Alyssa," he stated, adding a request to the judge that she "forbid TV, internet, mail, phone calls, visitations and education" for Cruz.

"Stop providing the safety and security for this animal ... Stop spending millions of taxpayer dollars on this killer," he said.

2:04 p.m. ET, November 2, 2022

Mother of Parkland shooting victim reads off the names of those killed in the massacre

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Annika Dworet, mother of 17-year-old Nicholas Dworet, who was killed in the Parkland massacre, expressed frustration with the jury's decision in the case, asking, "How much worse would the crime have to be" to warrant the death penalty?

After a months-long trial, a jury last month recommended Cruz, now 24, be sentenced to life in prison, meaning Cruz avoided the death penalty.

Dworet thanked the judge for being "professional and fair." To the prosecutors, she said, "you're all amazing lawyers."

Dworet concluded her statement by saying "after today no one will speak of this killer," adding that "we will, however, always remember, honor and live for" the victims.

She then read off the first names of those killed in the massacre, end with her son: "our beautiful Nicholas."

"May their memories be a blessing," Dworet said.

1:43 p.m. ET, November 2, 2022

The hearing has started

Day two of the sentencing hearing for Nikolas Cruz, the gunman who murdered 17 people at a Florida high school, has begun.

Survivors and families of those killed in the Parkland shooting will continue to make victim impact statements at today's proceedings.

Cruz is expected to be sentenced today to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

1:23 p.m. ET, November 2, 2022

The Parkland shooter is expected to be sentenced today. Here's a look at how his trial played out.

Nikolas Cruz arrives in court for the sentencing phase of his trial in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Monday.
Nikolas Cruz arrives in court for the sentencing phase of his trial in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Monday. Amy Beth Bennett/Pool/Reuters

After deliberating in the month-long trial of the Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz, a Florida jury agreed the state had proven the aggravating factors beyond a reasonable doubt and that they were sufficient to warrant a possible death sentence. However, Cruz, now 24, avoided capital punishment. Here's what happened.

To decide on a recommendation, jurors were asked to weigh the aggravating factors and mitigating circumstances presented by the prosecution and defense during trial.

Prosecutors pointed to seven aggravating factors, including that the killings were especially heinous, atrocious or cruel, as well as cold, calculated and premeditated. Other aggravating factors, prosecutors said, were that the defendant knowingly created a great risk of death to many people, and that he disrupted a lawful government function – in this case, the running of a school.

The defense, meantime, offered 41 possible mitigating circumstances, including that Cruz was exposed to alcohol, drugs and nicotine in utero; that he has a “neurodevelopmental disorder associated with prenatal alcohol exposure;” and that his adoptive mother did not follow the recommendations of medical, mental health and educational providers, among many others.

While the jury agreed the aggravating factors were proven and sufficient to warrant a possible death sentence, the jurors' verdict forms indicated that they could not come to a unanimous agreement that the aggravating factors outweighed the mitigating circumstances. Therefore, Cruz avoided the death penalty.

In closing arguments Tuesday, prosecutors argued Cruz’s decision to commit the shooting was deliberate and carefully planned, while Cruz’s defense attorneys offered evidence of a lifetime of struggles at home and in school.

However, defense attorney Melisa McNeill said Cruz “is a brain damaged, broken, mentally ill person, through no fault of his own.” She pointed to the defense’s claim that Cruz’s mother used drugs and drank alcohol while his mother was pregnant with him, saying he was “poisoned” in her womb.

“And in a civilized humane society, do we kill brain damaged, mentally ill, broken people?” McNeill asked. “Do we? I hope not.”
1:06 p.m. ET, November 2, 2022

The Parkland school shooting turned student survivors into gun control reform activists

Nikolas Cruz opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine's Day in 2018 in Parkland, Florida, which catalyzed a nationwide call for gun control reform.

It is led by the shooting’s teenage survivors and the victims’ families. It remains the deadliest mass shooting at an American high school, even as the scourge of gun violence on US campuses continues.

These students-turned-activists are also hoping to pile pressure on President Joe Biden to take action on the issue.

Youth-led gun violence prevention group March For Our Lives, along with advocacy organizations Guns Down America and Change the Ref, have launched a tool called the “Shock Market” that will track gun violence in the US since Biden took office.

“Biden has been a friend but not a leader,” David Hogg, founder of March For Our Lives and a survivor of the Parkland shooting, told CNN. “He’s made small steps but it’s not enough. The President hasn’t been receptive to our demands. We expected this from (former President Donald) Trump, but we’re shocked that it’s coming from Biden.”

In order to combat gun violence, the coalition is asking the President to “establish a national office of gun violence prevention,” further “invest in community violence intervention programs,” “hold the gun industry accountable” by nominating a new director to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and “use the presidential bully pulpit” to bring attention to the issue and coordinate a comprehensive response.

“We’re not asking for magical things. This is the bare minimum for what a champion of gun violence prevention should be doing, and thus far the President hasn’t,” Igor Volsky, founder of Guns Down America, which has urged political and business leaders to prioritize gun violence prevention, told CNN.
12:57 p.m. ET, November 2, 2022

3 jurors had voted against recommending death penalty for Parkland shooter

Of the 12 jurors tasked with recommending a sentence for Nikolas Cruz last month, three voted against the death penalty for the Parkland school shooter, jury foreman Benjamin Thomas told CNN affiliate WFOR, saying, “I don’t like how it turned out but it’s that’s how the jury system works.”

“There was one with a hard ‘no,’ she couldn’t do it, and there was another two that ended up voting the same way,” said Thomas.

The woman who was a hard no “didn’t believe because he was mentally ill he should get the death penalty,” Thomas said.

The deliberations became “tense,” a juror wrote in a handwritten letter addressed to Judge Elizabeth Scherer. The juror, who voted against the death penalty for Cruz, wrote to the judge that “some jurors became extremely unhappy once I mentioned that I would vote for life.”

In the letter, the juror also denied allegations that she made up her mind to vote for life in prison before the trial began, saying she heard other jurors had made such accusations about her.