Parkland shooter’s life sentence could bring changes to law

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz is escorted into the courtroom for a hearing regarding possible jury misconduct during deliberations in the penalty phase of his trial, Friday, Oct.  14, 2022, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.  (Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel via AP, Pool)

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz is escorted into the courtroom for a hearing regarding possible jury misconduct during deliberations in the penalty phase of his trial, Friday, Oct. 14, 2022, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel via AP, Pool)

AP

It wasn’t long ago that Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz would have been looking at a near-certain death sentence for murdering 17 people in Parkland, even if his jury could not unanimously agree on his fate.

Until 2016, Florida law allowed trial judges to impose a death sentence if a majority of the jurors agreed. With a 9-3 vote Thursday supporting Cruz’s execution, Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer would have likely sent him to Death Row for the 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High.

Now, however, a vote of anything less than 12-0 means an automatic sentence of life without parole — a standard the Stoneman Douglas families and the head of the state’s prosecutors association want changed. That would again put Florida in a distinct minority among the 27 states that still have the death penalty where almost all require juror unanimity.

Ed Brodsky, president of the Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association, believes the Legislature will next year consider changing the law it passed after a pair of court decisions rejected the old law.

“When there is an overwhelmingly majority and sentiment about what the ultimate penalty should be, should one minority voice be able to dominate and hijack justice?” said Brodsky, the elected state attorney for Sarasota County and its neighbors.

Gov. Ron DeSantis at a Friday press conference criticized the sentence, but wouldn’t specify what changes he would support.

“We need to do some reforms to be better serving victims

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