The family of 17 children and adults Nicholas Cruz who was murdered at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day 2018 cursed him to hell, wished him a painful death and called him a coward on Tuesday, getting one chance to address him directly before he was sentenced to life in prison.

For hours, fathers, wives, siblings, children, and some of Cruz’s 17 wounded men stood within 20 feet of him. They looked the handcuffed killer in the eye and made violent, angry, and sometimes tearful statements.

Most criticized that his jury voted 9-3 in favor of the death penalty, but did not reach the consensus required by state law to enforce this ruling.

Cruz, 24, dressed in a bright red prison jumpsuit, stared, showing no emotion behind a face mask. The two-day hearing will conclude on Wednesday when Judge Elizabeth Shearer formally sentences Cruz to life in prison without parole.

“This creature has no recoverable value,” said Max Schachter, whose 14-year-old son Alex died when he was shot out of a classroom window.

Speaking at Cruise but declining to give his name, Schachter said he hopes “the other prisoners you’ll meet in your new life will inflict you this pain, and hopefully, repeat 17 times, so that you cry out for mercy, just like your victims.”

Schachter said it was his birthday, and that when he blew out his candles, he wished for Cruise’s agonizing death—and every year until that happened.

Some family members attacked Cruz’s public defenders, accusing them of misleading jurors into believing that his mother’s heavy drinking had caused his brain damage and his inability to control himself. Some hoped their consciences would haunt them forever and they would feel the pain they felt, with at least one parent mentioning the children of lawyers.

“It must protect the legal system and impart justice, justice and justice,” Patricia Oliver said, tilting the pulpit toward defense attorneys and accusing them of “shameful and hateful behaviour.”

Cruz hit her 17-year-old son Joaquin in the leg and then tracked him to the alcove in the bathroom. There, Cruz killed her son with a bullet to the head from his AR-15 semi-automatic rifle while raising his hand to protect himself.

“If this, the worst mass shooting on trial, does not deserve the death penalty, then what?” She said.

Nine other US gunmen killed at least 17 people or were killed by police. The suspect in the 2019 deaths of 23 people at a Walmart in Texas awaits trial.

The lead defense attorney, Melissa McNeill, eventually asked Judge Shearer to prevent family members from directly attacking her and her colleagues, saying they acted within Cruz’s constitutional rights standards.

“I did my job, every member of this team did our job, we shouldn’t be attacked personally for it, and we shouldn’t have our kids,” McNeil said, pointing to a hum from the families’ seating area.

The attorney general, Carolyn McCann, told Shearer that victims have the right under state law and the Constitution to “express themselves and be heard.”

When McNeill tried to respond, telling the judge she knew the parents were violating court decency, Scherer stopped her. The two have been in a nervous and sometimes hostile relationship since their pre-trial hearings.

“Stop implying that I know something is inappropriate,” Scherer said, saying she had heard enough. No action was taken against the families.

The controversy resumed after lunch, with Scherer yelling at and firing one of McNeill’s aides, who asserted that the judge would be more concerned about the statements if the parents had mentioned Scherer’s children.

Cruz’s lawyers say he is not expected to speak. He apologized in court last year after pleading guilty, but the families told reporters they found the apology aimed at winning sympathy. He fired 140 rounds during his seven-minute attack, which he had planned for seven months.

This petition paved the way for a three-month sentence trial that ended on October 13 with the jury failing to reach a consensus. The jurors said those who vote for life believe Cruz is mentally ill and should be avoided.

This led to the current hearing.

“You stole it from us, and you didn’t get the justice you deserved. You’ll be sent to prison, your punishment will begin, you will be a number, and for me you will cease to exist,” said Debra Hickson, whose husband, athletic director Chris Hickson, died after he ran in Cruise to stop him.

“We hope that you, the monster who did this to our son, will endure a painful life in your remaining days,” said Eric Weekender, father of student Ben Weekender, who underwent seven surgeries to repair his wounds.

Stacy Label, the teacher who was injured, said, “Because of you, I check all exits wherever I am. Because of you, I’m thinking of a worst-case scenario for myself and my family. Because of you, I will never feel safe again. I have no forgiveness in my heart for you.”

Leave a Reply