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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5:07 p.m. ET, November 2, 2022

Parkland murderer sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole

From CNN’s Mike Hayes, Dakin Andone and Alta Spells

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Judge Elizabeth Scherer sentenced Nikolas Cruz to life in prison without the possibility of parole on Wednesday after a Florida jury last month failed to reach a unanimous decision on the death penalty in his penalty phase trial.

Cruz, now 24, pleaded guilty last October to 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder for the shooting in Parkland, Florida, in which 14 students and three school staff members were killed, and 17 others were injured.

On Wednesday, following two days of impassioned statements from victims and family members, the judge read off each count of murder and attempted murder, 34 in total. Cruz received a life sentence for each count.

"I am ordering that each and every count run consecutive ... That is one after another," Scherer said.

Scherer imposed the sentence based on the recommendation of the jury. She was not allowed to depart from the jury’s guidance.

Cruz is expected to be transferred to the custody of Florida’s Department of Corrections and transported to one of several reception centers in the state, CNN previously reported.

Cruz will spend weeks undergoing physical and mental examinations, Florida criminal defense attorney Janet Johnson has told CNN.

The chosen facility is determined by “reviewing the seriousness of (the inmate’s) offenses, length of sentence, time remaining to serve, prior criminal record, escape history, prison adjustment, and other factors,” according to the Florida Department of Corrections website.

The Florida Department of Corrections has not responded to CNN's request for more specific information on Cruz.

At the end of the hearing, the judge remanded Cruz to the Department of Corrections. She informed him that he has 30 days to appeal the sentence. Members of the Broward County Sheriff's Department then escorted Cruz out of the courtroom.

CNN's Christina Maxouris contributed to this report

4:45 p.m. ET, November 2, 2022

Judge thanks families for sharing stories and memories of shooting victims

Judge Elizabeth Scherer addressed the families of Parkland shooting victims and thanked them for their courage and for sharing their stories and the memories of their loved ones.

In remarks before the formal sentencing, she thanked them for being graceful and patient throughout the process.

"The way that you have grieved so gracefully and have shown extraordinary restraint throughout this process is something that I've never seen," she said.

In many of the impact statements heard by the court, some families expressed frustration and anger with the justice system, while others shared stories about what their loved one was like before they were killed in the shooting.

"If I could take your pain away or carry your pain for you just for five minutes so that you could breathe, I would," she said. "I can't even imagine what you go through today," the judge added.

Scherer noted the sense of community and support between families.

“I couldn’t help but notice that when the survivors came in and testified their family units came with them and were there for them," she said, adding that if any good came out of this process, it is that she believes the families will be OK because they are "strong" and "united" as a group.

4:36 p.m. ET, November 2, 2022

Judge Scherer addresses Parkland murderer before imposing sentence

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Prior to imposing her sentence, Judge Elizabeth Scherer addressed Nikolas Cruz.

She said that based on her observations of the convicted Parkland murderer during the hearing that he was following along and consulting with counsel when needed.

She asked him if he was taking his prescribed medication while in custody, and he responded "yes."

She then asked if he was having trouble concentrating or understanding anything going on during the hearing and he responded "no." It was the first time that Cruz spoke during the two-day sentencing hearing in his case.

Scherer then stated that it was her determination that Cruz is " competent to go forward" with sentencing.

4:26 p.m. ET, November 2, 2022

Parkland victim's parent wears Sex Pistols t-shirt that reads "God Save Joaquin"

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Manuel Oliver, the father of Parkland victim Joaquin Oliver, wore a Sex Pistols t-shirt with the famous "God Save The Queen" logo that he had altered to read "God Save Joaquin."

Oliver said that he had always hoped that his son — who was shot 4 times — did not suffer but "he did suffer," Oliver said.

He called Nikolas Cruz a coward and said: "You're going to die before me, and I will celebrate when you die."

Oliver was the last family member to offer an impact statement in the sentencing of Cruz. 

Judge Elizabeth Scherer is now moving forward with the sentencing. 

3:51 p.m. ET, November 2, 2022

Victim's mother to Parkland murderer: "I have never uttered your name, and I never will"

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Linda Beigel Schulman, mother of Scott Beigel, a Parkland teacher shot and killed in the massacre, said her son saved 31 people inside the school before he died.

To gunman Nikolas Cruz, she said, "I have never uttered your name, and I never will," addressing him as the "confessed, convicted Parkland mass murderer" in court. She said Cruz's "notoriety is over today."

Beigel Schulman thanked the judge and the prosecution team. She told the prosecutors that she thought their case was "flawless" and that they "proved every aggravating factor" at trial.

She concluded her statement by holding up a picture of those killed in the shooting and reading their names and ages. For her son Scott, she called him "my irreplaceable son" who she will "honor, cherish and love for every day for the rest of my life."

3:42 p.m. ET, November 2, 2022

Parkland shooting victim's father calls for Broward County public defender's resignation

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Fred Guttenberg, father of 14-year-old Parkland school shooting victim Jaime, called on Broward County Public Defender Gordon Weekes to resign on Wednesday.

"I want to see Gordon Weekes resign before the end of the day today," he said at shooter Nikolas Cruz's sentencing hearing.

This comes after Weekes asked the judge to direct the state to encourage its witnesses to not make any statements to or about the defense team and the jury and to stick to their feelings about how Cruz’s sentence affected them.

Weekes had criticized some of Tuesday's testimony for verbally attacking defense lawyers, and claimed that the defendant's lawyers were just doing their jobs as the law provides criminal defendants a right to legal representation.

“It is very important ... that we do not create an atmosphere where dog whistles are being emanated from this courtroom encouraging folks to act on those same type behaviors,” Weekes told the court.

Guttenberg slammed these appeals and Weekes' suggestion that the grieving families were inciting violence while making their statements.

"I understand that you have a job to do, defending the indefensible, defending a mass murderer of 17 people. I understand that was hard. And you were doing your job as you were required to do. But I'm not sure anywhere along the way there was a requirement that you give up your humanity and your decency. That was a choice you made." he said. "[For] months, we've been here. None of you have looked in our direction, made an effort to say 'we're sorry for your loss,' ever."
"You did your job, you got him from not getting the death penalty," he added. "I hope you're all proud of yourselves."
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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"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.