Parkland shooting parents fume as killer of 14 kids avoids death penalty

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    The parents of the children killed in the Parkland shooting were in tears as the evil gunman avoided the death penalty.

    Nikolas Cruz, 24, pleaded guilty to 17 counts of murder and a further 17 counts of attempted murder after gunning down 14 students, three members of staff and injuring 17 others at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Florida, in February 2018.

    The four-minute AR-15 rampage is one of the deadliest school shootings in US history.

    READ MORE: Knife-wielding man 'shot dead by police after being tackled with stun grenade and Taser'

    Prosecutors were seeking the death penalty for Cruz's "cold, calculated and premeditated" massacre, which they described as "systematic murder".

    The killer's defence argued he should be spared the death penalty as "his brain was irretrievably broken" by a troubled childhood.

    After seven-and-a-half hours of deliberations, a 12-person jury today (Thursday, October 13) recommended life in prison without parole.

    That sentence – now a formality – will be imposed at a hearing on November 1.

    Some of the victims families were heard audibly gasping as the decision was read to the courtroom.

    Others were seen walking out and some wiped away tears as Cruz looked down at the defence table, showing no emotion.

    The jury would have had to have been in unanimous agreement for the death penalty to be recommended.

    But for each of the 17 counts of first-degree murder, at least one juror found that mitigating factors put forward by the defence outweighed the aggravating factors proposed by the state.

    Florida has not carried out a death sentence since 2019.

    The parents of victim Alyssa Alhadeff, 14, said they were "disgusted" by the decision.

    Her father Ilan Alhadeff said: "What do we have the death penalty for? What is the purpose of it? This isn’t about personal beliefs. It’s not about your religious values. It’s about the heinous crime that was committed."

    Tony Montalto, the father of victim Gina Montalto, 14, said: "Today’s ruling was yet another gut punch to so many of us. The monster that killed them gets to live another day.

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    "[He] pressed the barrel of his weapon to my daughter’s chest, that doesn’t outweigh that what’s-his-name had a tough upbringing?"

    Cruz had been expelled from the school a year earlier and singalled his desire to become a school shooter in videos and drawings he made before the killings.

    Cruz was arrested nearby after mingling with students to get away and buying a drink at a nearby mall.


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