DeSantis, families of victims sound off after jury spares Parkland school shooter from death penalty

Strong reactions poured in after mass murderer Nikolas Cruz, who slaughtered 17 people at a Florida high school in a mass shooting on Valentine’s Day in 2018, was saved from the punishment that many believed he was deserving of when a jury declined to deliver the death penalty.

On Thursday, jurors failed to come together in unanimous agreement to make the now 24-year-old killer pay the appropriate price for his shooting spree at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School during which he cold-bloodedly and methodically carried out his murderous mission, taking the lives of 14 young students along with three adults in one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history.

As a result of the jury’s decision to reward Cruz with that which he denied to his victims, the killer will instead be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, drawing outraged responses from the suffering loved ones of the victims as well as from Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

“I think that if you have a death penalty at all, that that is a case, where you’re massacring those students, with premeditation and utter disregard for humanity, that you deserve the death penalty,” the governor said during a press conference.


“And so the jurors came back and apparently it was eleven to one with one holdout refusing to authorize the ultimate punishment and that means that this killer’s going to end up getting the same sentence who’ve committed bad acts but acts that did not rise to this level,” he added. “I just don’t think anything else is appropriate except the capital sentence in this case and so I was very disappointed to see that…”

Max Schachter, father of 14-year victim Alex Schachter expressed his dismay with the verdict on Twitter.

“Prior to the shooting the Parkland murderer said he wanted to kill 20 people. He stopped after killing 17 including my sweet little boy Alex. Afterwards he didn’t want to die. He wanted to live. Today he got everything he wanted. While our loved ones are in the cemetery,” he wrote.

Another family member, the father of  14-year-old Alyssa Alhadeff whose life was taken by Cruz also spoke out.

“I am disgusted with our legal system. I’m disgusted with those jurors. I am disgusted with the system,” Dr. Ilan Alhadeff said as he struggled to hold his emotions in check. “That you can allow 17 dead and 17 others shot and wounded and not give the death penalty. What do we have the death penalty for? What is the purpose of it?”

“You set a precedent today,” he added. “You set a precedent for the next mass killing and nothing happens to you, you’ll get life in jail. I’m sorry, that is not ok. As a country we need to stand up and say that’s not ok.”

Tony Montalto, the father of 14-year-old Gina Montalto who was cut down by Cruz before her life had even begun spoke at a press conference following the reading of the verdict.

“It is pretty unreal that nobody paid attention to the facts of this case, that no one remembers who a victim is and what they look like. I know every day because I have seen my beautiful daughter’s face around our home, in my dreams, and I miss her very much,” he said. “Today’s ruling was yet another gut punch for so many of us who devastatingly lost our loved ones on that tragic Valentine’s Day at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.”

Other parents also reacted with outrage over the jury’s failure to deliver justice.

Montalto also expressed disgust at how Cruz was allowed to be portrayed as a victim, “That poor little…what’s his name? Had a tough upbringing?”

“I mean, society has to really look and reexamine who and what is a victim,” he said. “Not everyone’s a victim. My beautiful Gina, the other sons, daughters, spouses, and fathers, they were the victims here.”

The jury’s disappointing decision came following hours of deliberations spanning two days, bringing a close to the three-month trial that featured emotional testimony from family members of the victims whose loved ones were deprived of their opportunities to live, unlike the ruthless psychopath who gunned them down.

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