FORT LAUDERDALE – Monday marks the ninth day of the trial of Nikolas Cruz, who pleaded guilty in 2021 to killing 17 people and injuring 17 others at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on Feb. 14, 2018.
For two weeks, jurors heard testimonies from teachers and students who survived the shooting; from medical researchers discussing victims’ injuries; and from others, such as an Uber driver and gun store owner, who spoke about their interactions with the shooter.
The 12-member jury will recommend whether Cruz, then 19 and now 23, be put to death or sentenced to life without parole. If it recommends death, Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer will make the final ruling, likely sometime this fall.
Follow along for a live coverage of what’s happening in court on Monday.
Testimony from last week: Social media posts promised school shooting
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Families describe impact: ‘This is life now, and it hurts. It hurts a lot’
Patricia Oliver, Joaquin Oliver’s mother, has prepared a statement to share with jurors about the impact of the loss of her son.
“It’s been four years and four months since he was taken from us,” she said. Her family “will never be the same.”
She began to cry when she described the teenage Joaquin knocking on her door at night when he couldn’t fall asleep. He blew her kisses and called his sister “beautiful girl.” He was the missing link in their families, she said.
Joaquin’s sister then read a statement describing her lively and empathetic younger brother. When he died, part of her did too, she said.
“This is life now, and it hurts. It hurts a lot,” she said.
His empty bedroom haunts her.
Victoria Gonzales, Joaquin’s girlfriend, also testified before jurors. “Girlfriend” isn’t quite enough, she said – they were soul mates. She described how he danced through the hallways of Stoneman Douglas with his headphones on.
“He was just happy to be human,” she said.
They had a movie date scheduled the night he was killed, Gonzalez said. When Cruz killed Joaquin, she said, he took her innocence, her purity, the chance to watch him grow up.
“I lost the voice that filled the atmosphere of my core,” Gonzalez said. “It’s so quiet now.”
Alaina Petty’s mother went to the stands and began to cry before speaking to the judges.
She is devastated not to see her daughter become “the amazing young woman she was becoming,” she said.
“Fourteen is too young to die,” added Meghan Petty, Alaina’s older sister.
Alaina never got her braces off, never went on a first date, never got her driver’s license or had her first kiss before she was killed.
“Even if she had gone to Mars, she would be closer than she is now,” said Meghan Petty.
She wept and a juror reached out to get a tissue for herself. Meghan Petty said she can’t remember what it felt like to hug or fight her sister. She said she’s still waiting for her to walk through the front door.
The parents of Scott Beigel, the school’s cross-county coach and geography teacher, were the last to speak. Their son had a broad smile and a dry sense of humor, they said. When asked how he could improve in a track race, he told his team: Just run faster.
Their impact statement was the only one that made the judges laugh. As funny as it was, it ended the same way as the last one.
“I miss my son today. I will miss my son tomorrow,” Beigel’s mother said. She said she will miss him for the rest of her life.
‘You’re all going to die’: Nikolas Cruz detailed plans in chilling video
Prosecutors played back videos found on Cruz’s phone detailing his plans for the Parkland shooting.
“Today is the day,” he said in one. “The day of my massacre will begin.”
“I live in seclusion and loneliness. I hate everything and everyone,” said Cruz, then 19 years old.
He said he was tired of being called “idiot and idiotic” and that his goal was to kill “at least” 20 people. All the children at school would “run in fear and hide from the wrath of my power. They will know who I am.”
He ended with a promise: “You’re all going to die. Pew pew pew. I can’t wait.”
Relatives of victims watched from the courtroom and shook their heads as the video played on overhead screens.
Cruz texted people on the day of the shoot, even as he drove to school
Broward County Detective Ronald Faircloth, a digital forensic analyst, read texts between Cruz and several people in the hours leading up to the shooting.
In one conversation, Cruz expressed his love for someone saved in his phone as “Warning Love Of Your Life.” The person has rejected him multiple times.
“You’re scaring me and I want you to leave me alone,” they texted. “You know I have a boyfriend, right?”
Cruz responded via three separate texts: “No, I don’t. Never mind. I love you.”
Minutes before he carried out the massacre, Cruz texted someone from the back seat of the Uber headed for Stoneman Douglas.
“I have something important to tell you soon,” Cruz wrote.
The person asked for clarification, to which the shooter replied, “Nothing bad bro.”
Jurors in Parkland Shooting Trial Read Shooter’s Search History on Internet
Faircloth read Cruz’s cell phone search history from the days leading up to the shooting. On February 12, 2018, he sought “how long does it take for a cop to show up in a school shooting.”
Cruz repeatedly searched for “human massacre,” “ar-15” and “marjory stoneman douglas.” In between searches for past school shootings, Cruz clicked on a Rolling Stone article, “How the AR-15 Became Mass Shooters’ Weapon of Choice.”
Joaquin Oliver raised his hand to protect himself before being shot in the head
Terrill Tops, a Palm Beach County medical examiner and an expert forensic pathologist, performed the autopsy of 17-year-old Joaquin Oliver. Joaquin’s mother began to cry as Tops flipped through photos of the teen’s body.
He said Joaquin raised his hand to protect himself from Cruz, who stood over him in an alcove in the third-floor hallway on Feb. 14, 2018. Cruz shot him and a bullet went through the center of Joaquin’s raised hand and into his temple. Tops compared the impact of the bullet to a “cherry bomb.”
Joaquin’s mother left the courtroom.
Tops also testified that he performed an autopsy on 37-year-old Aaron Feis, a football coach at Stoneman Douglas.
A bullet entered Feis’s armpit, broke his ribcage and hit his lung. Feis would have struggled to breathe as the blood pooled in his chest cavity and compressed his lung, Tops said.
During the trial against Nikolas Cruz today, the medical examiner describes the path of the bullet that killed Luke Hoyer. killed
Tops also performed the autopsy of 15-year-old Luke Hoyer, who shot and killed Cruz as he returned to class.
Tops described the path of a bullet entering, exiting, and re-entering Luke, leaving holes in his neck, collarbone, and back. It severed two major arteries that supply blood to the face and brain.
“Those two blood vessels were severed,” Tops said. “They were obliterated.”
A liter and a half of blood pooled in the teen’s chest cavity, compressing his lung and “basically drowning.” Luke might have been saved had he received immediate medical attention, Tops said. Luke’s parents listened in court and they looked sick when Tops testified.
Hannah Phillips is a journalist who covers public safety and criminal justice at The Palm Beach Post. You can reach her at email@example.com.