Parkland shooter Cruz faces penalty trial for killing 17 people By Reuters

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz sits at the defense table during his appearance at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, U.S. October 20, 2021. Amy Beth Bennett/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

(Reuters) – Jury selection is scheduled to begin on Monday for the penalty phase of the trial for the man who shot and killed 17 people, including 14 students, at a Parkland, Florida, high school in 2018.

Nikolas Cruz pled guilty in November to 17 counts of murder. Now, a jury will determine whether he receives life in prison or the death penalty.

It is expected to take several weeks to seat the jury, and this phase of the trial could last several months, legal experts have said.

Cruz was a 19-year-old expelled student with a history of mental health and behavioral issues at the time of the killings, prosecutors said at his trial last year.

Under Florida law, a jury must be unanimous in its decision to recommend that a judge sentence Cruz to be executed. If any of the 12 jurors objects, Cruz will be sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Among the mitigating factors the defense will ask the jury to consider are Cruz’s brain damage from his mother’s drug and alcohol abuse during pregnancy, his long history of mental-health disorders and allegations he was sexually abused and bullied.

Some of the teenagers who survived Cruz’s deadly rampage formed “March for Our Lives,” an organization that called for gun control legislation such as a ban on assault-style rifles.

In March 2018, the group held a nationally televised march in Washington that sparked hundreds of similar rallies worldwide. Cruz was 18 when he legally purchased from a licensed gun dealer the AR-15 style rifle used in the shooting.

(This story corrects headline to say “killing 17 people,” not “17 children”; corrects first sentence to say “killed 17 people, including 14 students,” not “killed 17 students”)

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