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Since Feb. 14, 2018, when a gunman opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High school, the freshman building has essentially remained unaltered. This sent teachers and students fleeing for safety.
Laptops are still cracked open on desks where students’ essays remain unfinished. A copy of “To Kill a Mockingbird” was in one classroom near assorted teddy bears, candy hearts and other forgotten Valentine’s Day gifts. Along with the signs of an ordinary school day in Parkland (Fla.), were blood trails, bullet holes, and broken glass where 14 students and three teachers were killed.
In the sentencing of Nikolas Cruz, a dozen jurors were joined by 10 alternates. After pleading guilty to 17 counts each of murder and attempted murder in October, the 23-year-old will face either the death penalty or life imprisonment.
Parkland gunman’s death penalty trial begins as U.S. reels from mass shootings
The jury, Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer and attorneys, as well as journalists, walked through many of the same classrooms and hallways in the three-story building like Cruz four years ago. The building has remained closed off to the public behind a 15-foot chain link fence covered in privacy mesh — but prosecutors hope the scene inside will make the case that Cruz should be sentenced to death.
Reporters described the crunch of shattered glass underfoot and the sight of dried blood — contrasted by deflated balloons and decaying rose petals left behind in the students’ rush to escape. Six people died on the third floor. “the blood in the hallway is something that I would never wish on people to have to see,” said South Florida Sun Sentinel reporter Rafael Olmeda.
“It was disturbing on a number of levels,”Olmeda stated this in a interview about a pool report. “What we saw was the end result of children who are in the middle of an average day having a wonderful time, and all of a sudden, a nightmare erupts.”
In Dara Hass’s ninth-grade English class, where Alyssa Alhadeff, Alaina Petty and Alexander Schachter died, students had been writing before the attack.
“We go to school every day of the week and we take it all for granted,”One student wrote. “We cry and complain without knowing how lucky we are to be able to learn.”
Six bullet holes peppering a window on the third floor showed Cruz’s attempt to fire at the students fleeing outside. You could still see blood from the spot where Scott Beigel, geography teacher, fell while helping students into a classroom.
An alcove was found outside the bathroom that Joaquin Oliver had died in. There was a pool blood and bullet holes in a wall. This indicated how close Cruz was when Cruz shot Joaquin Oliver, who held his hands helplessly. The heart-shaped Valentine’s card he carried was left covered in blood. Oliver would have been 22 years old on Thursday.
“We don’t just see a large pool of blood where Joaquin Oliver died,”Olmeda said. “We see a large pool of blood where, we know from testimony, Joaquin Oliver sat and waited, knowing he was next to be shot.”
Parkland shooter’s defense attorneys cry as victims’ parents testify
Reporters claimed that jurors didn’t show emotion during the visit. However, one did appear to support another by placing her arm around the other.
Robert Hirschhorn (trial consultant) said that it was. “extraordinarily rare”A judge may allow a site visitor to be taken into consideration in a criminal trial. He said that this is the first time in recent times that a judge has allowed such an inspection when considering a punishment.
“Site visits always leave indelible and unforgettable impressions with jurors,” Hirschhorn said.
A Florida jury must unanimously recommend the death penalty. Cruz’s defense team, which has pushed for a life sentence based on Cruz’s difficult upbringing and mental health issues, will make its opening statement after next week’s recess.
Jurors have been exposed since July 18 to graphic videos, photos, and audio clips. They have listened to medical experts describe the destructive injuries caused by Cruz’s AR-15-style weapon. They now witness carnage suspended in space.
Thursday was also the last day for victim-impact statements. During this time, Helena Ramsay (15 years old), Peter Wang (15 years) and Christopher Hixon (49 years old), described how their lives were disrupted.
Clad in a suit with a burgundy bow-tie, Hixon’s son Corey told the court that he missed the Saturday runs to Dunkin’ he took with his father, a Navy veteran.
With three gut-wrenching words, Corey brought people in the courtroom to tears — including members of Cruz’s Defense team.
“I miss him,”Corey leaned in to his mother for a hug, and then broke down into a sob.