The shooter who took the lives of 17 students and staff members at a Florida high school four years ago was sentenced to 34 terms of life in prison this week.
Nikolas Cruz, 24, was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison without the possibility of parole on each of the 17 counts of murder, to be served consecutively, in addition to life sentences for 17 counts of attempted murder, as noted by a CNN report.
Cruz pleaded guilty last year to premeditated murder before facing the three-month penalty trial this year.
The consecutive nature of the sentences guarantee Cruz will never be a free man again, but many families and community members felt the jury should have recommended the death penalty for the killer responsible for one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history.
“It is heartbreaking how any person who heard and saw all this did not give this killer the worst punishment possible,” the mother of 17-year-old victim Nicholas Dworet said, as reported by CNN. “As we all know, the worst punishment in the state of Florida is the death penalty. How much worse would the crime have to be to warrant the death penalty?”
Presiding juror Benjamin Thomas revealed to local media that three jury members were responsible for voting against the death penalty after one of them took a strong stance against it, citing mental illness.
Florida law requires all 12 jurors to reach a unanimous decision regarding the death penalty. Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer was required by state law to follow the jury’s recommendation of life without parole.
Cruz remained impassive throughout two days of emotional victim impact statements, wearing large glasses, a red jumpsuit, and a COVID mask, except when removing it after the mother of a victim called it disrespectful.
The impact statements ranged from pity and sadness to fiery anger.
Fred Guttenberg, the father of slain 14-year-old Jaime Guttenberg, watched the surveillance video that showed his daughter’s death during the trial, a painful experience he recounted in his statement.
“I watched you kill my daughter. I saw you enjoy it … She made it to within one second of making it out alive,” he told Cruz, according to the Sun Sentinel.
Samantha Fuentes, who was shot in the thigh by Cruz, recounted her time with Cruz in a junior ROTC program.
“We were still children back then. I was still a child when I saw you standing in the window, peering into my Holocaust studies class, holding your AR-15 that had swastikas, ironically, scratched into it,” she told the killer in court. “I was still a child after I watched you kill two of my friends.”
Cruz awaits transfer to the Florida prison system. The judge ordered that Cruz could not profit from the crime with a book or movie deal.
Florida criminal defense attorney Janet Johnson told CNN Cruz will most likely end up in prison with other high-profile or “very dangerous criminals.”