The killer who stalked the grounds of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018, murdering 17 people and injuring 17 others, rambled about marijuana and other drugs during a speech at his change of plea hearing on Wednesday. Nikolas Cruz, 23, still faces a penalty phase to determine whether he will get death or spend life in prison without parole, but he nonetheless asked to read a statement to the victims’ families in court.
Here is what Cruz had to say to Parkland families:
I am very sorry for what I did, and I have to live with it everyday, and that if I were to get a second chance, I would do everything in my power to try to help others, and I am doing this for you, and I do not care if you do not believe me, and I love you, and I know you don’t believe me, but I have to live with this every day, and it brings me nightmares, and I can’t live with myself sometimes, but I try to push through because I know that’s what you guys would want me to do. I hate drugs, and I believe this country would do better if everyone would stop smoking marijuana and doing all these drugs and causing racism and violence out in the streets. I’m sorry, and I can’t even watch TV anymore, and I’m trying my best to maintain my composure, and I just want you to know I’m really sorry, and I hope you give me a chance to try to help others. I believe it’s your decision to decide where I go, whether I live or die, not the jury’s. I believe it’s your decision. I’m sorry.
Cruz pleaded guilty to 17 counts of first-degree murder, and 17 counts of attempted first-degree murder. The only possible punishments for the first set of charges are death or life in prison without parole. Prosecutors refused to budge on capital punishment, so jury selection for the penalty phase was scheduled to begin Jan. 4. Prosecutors are also requesting life in prison for the attempted murder charges. Under questioning from Judge Elizabeth Scherer, Cruz said he understood that based on the law, jurors, not the victims’ families, must make the decision about capital punishment.
All told, the hearing was straightforward. Judge Scherer explained how the change of plea would surrender certain rights in court, such as appealing a hypothetical guilty verdict from jurors. Cruz said he accepted this.
Cruz had pleaded guilty last Friday to battery charges for attacking a jail guard, but Scherer held off on sentencing until Wednesday. The judge gave him a 15-year term for attempted aggravated battery of a law enforcement officer, five years for battery on a law enforcement officer, five years of depriving an officer means of protection, and the maximum term of 364 days for attempted use of a self-defense weapon against a law enforcement officer.
Scherer told Cruz on Friday that the felony charges for his battery case will be aggravating factors in his upcoming penalty phase.
Prosecutors can also use the murder and attempted murder charges as aggravating factors.
When arguing for the death penalty, prosecutors can use each of the charges Nikolas Cruz has pled guilty to as an aggravating factor against him.
— Jennifer Tintner (@JenniferTintner) October 20, 2021
Cruz murdered 17 people in the Parkland mass shooting of Valentine’s Day 2018: 14-year-old student Alyssa Alhadeff, 35-year-old teacher Scott Beigel, 14-year-old student Martin Duque Anguiano, 17-year-old student Nicholas Dworet, 37-year-old assistant football coach Aaron Feis, 14-year-old student Jaime Guttenberg, 49-year-old athletic director Christopher Hixon, 15-year-old student Luke Hoyer, 14-year-old student Cara Loughran, 14-year-old student Gina Montalto, 17-year-old student Joaquin Oliver, 14-year-old student Alaina Petty, 18-year-old student Meadow Pollack, 17-year-old student Helena Ramsay, 14-year-old student Alexander Schachter, 16-year-old student Carmen Schentrup, and 15-year-old student Peter Wang.
[Screenshot via Law&Crime Network]
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