On Thursday, a jury in Florida unanimously decided that Nikolas Cruz, the perpetrator of the 2018 Parkland school shooting which left 17 people dead and 17 more wounded, should be sentenced to life in prison without parole. This comes after days of deliberation over whether or not to issue the death penalty for a crime that shocked the nation and left its victims’ families feeling a deep sense of loss and longing for justice.
The 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School was one of the deadliest mass shootings in United States history. The shooter, then 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, had been expelled from the school and was reportedly struggling with mental health issues; he had been on an FBI watch list before slipping through their fingers and perpetrating his heinous crime.
Though most of the jurors agreed on a sentence of life imprisonment without parole, it is important to note that according to Florida law, there must have been unanimous agreement in order for them to recommend the death penalty — and one juror chose not to do so. This led to several members of the victims’ families speaking out with feelings of anger and injustice over this decision; some survivors also voiced their opinions on this verdict, some against capital punishment while others argued that state violence would not bring back their loved ones nor would it truly serve justice — but instead accountability should be sought from those in power who are enabling these mass shootings by supporting policies advocating for gun lobby interests.
Dr. Ilan Marc Alhadeff, a father whose daughter Alyssa was killed during the shooting, posed an interesting question: If someone can commit such an atrocious crime as killing 17 people yet still avoid execution due to legal loopholes in place then what purpose does capital punishment really serve? He further asserted that this decision sends a message that those responsible for these tragedies cannot actually be held accountable for their actions no matter how devastating they may be. Similarly, Cameron Kasky another survivor argued that politicians should feel shame over allowing such atrocities to happen rather than giving them impunity just because they’re trying to pander to powerful forces like gun lobbies.
Whether or not this decision will lead to any meaningful changes remains unclear at this point but there’s no doubt that this verdict has caused deep disappointment among the victims’ families who were hoping for closure with regard to what happened on February 14th, 2018. It goes without saying that more effective measures must be put into place if we’re ever going to stop these senseless killings — it’s time our politicians start listening to their constituents rather than blindly following orders from predatory NRA-backed campaigns which are only interested in furthering their own corporate agendas at any cost.