Nicholas Cruz, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Cruz discussed on Morning Edition


International crisis group. Thanks so much. Thank you for having me. Lawyers for the gunmen who opened fire on marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in Florida have begun to present their case. Nicholas Cruz has already pleaded guilty to 17 counts of murder. The jury now has two options, a sentence of life in prison without parole, or the death penalty. Defense lawyers are asking the jury to spare cruises life NPR's Greg Allen reports. Defense lawyers for Nicholas Cruz deferred delivering their opening statement until the prosecution had made its case. For weeks the jury heard emotional and graphic testimony as prosecutors laid out the grim facts. The facts have never been in dispute. In February of 2018, crews of troubled former student entered a school building with an AR-15 style rifle and began shooting students and staff members. When he was done, 17 people were dead and 17 others were wounded. The murders were captured on surveillance video. In court students and teachers who survived the shooting described the horrific events. In our opening statement yesterday, defense attorney Melissa McNeill acknowledged cruises responsibility and tried to turn the page. Everyone here agrees that was deserves to be punished. Without a doubt. But life without the possibility of parole is a severe nationality. Under Florida law, a unanimous verdict is required for the joy to deliver a sense of death. That means they must convince at least one juror that Cruz deserves a sentence of life in prison. Jurors must decide if aggravating factors outweigh mitigating factors. Prosecutors have laid out a host of reasons they're asking for the death penalty. Among them, the fact that multiple murders were committed, and that it was in legal parlance, horrendous atrocious or cruel. Yesterday, the defense began telling Cruz's history in hopes that it may sway some jurors from a death sentence. Among the witnesses was Carolyn deacons, who described herself as a recovering addict, who used to abuse alcohol and crack cocaine with cruise's birth mother, Brenda woodard. Dickens says both women worked as prostitutes to support their drug habit. She says she was angry when woodard told her she was pregnant. A little bit. She said, don't worry about it. It's all took care of. I have a lawyer and the baby's growing up for adoption. And so I'm not going to have to worry about it. And that's how she failed. She didn't want it. And then she addressed Cruz directly. Nicholas, I'm sorry, but that's how it was. The jury also heard from Cruz's older sister, who spoke about her mother's rapid drug and alcohol abuse. Another witness was one of cruise's first teachers when he was just three years old. She noted at the time that he was developmentally delayed, and had significant behavioral problems. The fit's attorney Melissa McNeil said, she'll present evidence and testimony from experts that cruise suffers from fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. She also talked about distributing drawings and threats of violence, cruise continues to produce now, while he's in jail. But his brain is complete. He's a damaged human being. And that's why these things happen. McNeil plays some of the blame for Cruz's problems on his adoptive mother, Linda Cruz, now deceased. Cruz at first ignored her son's problems in need for help McNeil says. Later over the objections of counselors and Friends, she brought him first a BB gun, and then when he turned 18, helped him buy a rifle. McNeil says she isn't trying to justify it or explain the attack in the 17 deaths. She told the jury, they should have a full picture of cruise's troubled history before they decide on his sentence. The defense will continue making its case in court today. Greg Allen and PR news Fort Lauderdale. This is NPR

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