Nicolas Cruz, who shot and killed 17 people in 2018 at a high school in Parkland, Florida, pleaded guilty of multiple murder charges against him.
Death penalty or life in prison? A trial began Monday in Florida to sentence the perpetrator of one of the worst school shootings in the United States, that of Parkland High School which left 17 dead in 2018 .
Reflecting the immense emotion aroused by this tragedy, it took nearly three months to select twelve jurors, seven men and five women, deemed sufficiently impartial to decide the fate of Nikolas Cruz, 23 years old.
On Monday morning, the young man dressed in a gray and blue sweater, large glasses and an anti-COVID mask, went is presented before them in a court in Fort Lauderdale, where several relatives of his victims had sat.
On February 14, 2018, he caused fear in Parkland, a small town north of Miami, by opening fire with a semi-automatic rifle at Marjory High School Stoneman Douglas, from whom he had been expelled a year earlier.
In October, he pleaded guilty to the 17 murders committed that day, those of 14 students and three adults, and of 17 murder attempts, one for each injured.
His trial is only to determine if he deserves the death penalty as prosecutors demand. If only one juror opposes it, Nikolas Cruz will be sentenced to an incompressible sentence of life imprisonment.
This trial, which is expected to last several months, has a unique character as it is rare in the United States for the perpetrators of such carnage to survive their attack.
Students in Florida demonstrate against guns following the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
It intervenes in a country reeling from a series of bloody shootings in an elementary school (21 dead including 19 children), a supermarket (10 dead, all African-Americans) and a National Day parade (7 dead).
The hearings promise to be difficult with testimonies from relatives of the victims and survivors, as well as the broadcast of videos recorded by witnesses to the tragedy.
Nikolas Cruz's lawyers should plead that their client is mentally ill and reminded that he has apologized. I'm so sorry for what I did, I bear the brunt of it every day, he said in October.
The prosecution is expected to insist on the premeditated nature of the crime, relying on video recorded before the act. Let my massacre begin today. Let all the frightened children run to hide, he said.
My life is nothing and has no meaning, he added, announcing that he wanted to go to his old school in an Uber vehicle armed with an AR-15 rifle.
Despite his psychiatric history and reports of its dangerousness, Nikolas Cruz had indeed been able to legally buy this rifle, a civilian version of assault rifles.
After the tragedy, his victims had lodged a complaint against the federal police, accused of not having followed these tips. The Department of Justice agreed in March to pay them $127.5 million to end the lawsuits.
The Parkland attack was the worst school massacre in the United States since the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, in which 26 people were killed.
It had sparked a record mobilization led by several young survivors and the parents of victims. On March 24, 2018, the March for Our Lives brought together 1.5 million people across the country, the largest national demonstration for better control of firearms in the history of the United States.
Despite the hopes of protesters, no legislative reform had been passed in Congress, and gun sales have continued to rise in recent years in the United States, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
They have killed more than 24,000 people, including 13,000 suicides, since the beginning of the year, according to the website Gun Violence Archives.
The recent tragedies have been followed by the adoption of a modest federal law, which mainly plans to strengthen the funds allocated to the security of schools and mental health.