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Parkland school shooter will face death penalty, prosecutors announce

Nikolas Cruz appears in magistrate court Friday, March 9, 2018 via video from jail for his initial appearance on the attempted murder charges that were added by the grand jury. (Carline Jean/Sun Sentinel/TNS)
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For murdering 17 people in Florida’s worst school shooting, Nikolas Cruz should be sentenced to death by execution, prosecutors say.

The Broward State Attorney’s Office announced Tuesday it will seek the death penalty against the 19-year-old gunman who attacked Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland last month.

The decision was not unexpected, and came one day before Cruz is scheduled to be arraigned on 17 counts of first-degree murder. A Broward grand jury last week indicted Cruz on those counts and an additional 17 counts of attempted murder.

The Parkland massacre has sparked a wave of student activism, renewed political tension over gun control and even spurred the normally firearm-friendly Florida Legislature to pass a law tightening access to the weapons.

The criminal case against Cruz is just beginning and is likely to last years. Armed with plenty of eye witnesses who knew the shooter, video surveillance and a confession, prosecutors have plenty of evidence to convict Cruz of the shooting.

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But a death sentence is no guarantee. Under recently changed Florida law, 12 jurors must now agree unanimously to send Cruz to death row. For decades, only a majority recommendation was needed.

Broward’s public defender says Cruz will not contest guilt, but will instead focus on persuading a jury to spare his life. His legal team will focus on Cruz’s long history of mental health trouble, missed warning signs about his potential for violence and tumultuous family life.

Cruz’s case will be heard Wednesday before Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer.

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© 2018 Miami Herald

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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