Nikolas Cruz’s troubled life began long before he was born, his lead defence lawyer told jurors on Monday. The attorney argued that his biological mother’s heavy consumption of alcohol and drugs while she was pregnant irreparably damaged his developing brain. Cruz is accused of killing 17 people at his former high school in Florida four years ago. The umbilical cord had been wrapped around his neck three times when he was born, which prevented him from receiving oxygen. The physicians spent the first minute following his delivery resuscitating him because of this.
The adoptive mother was at first in denial about her young son’s developing social, emotional, and behavioural challenges, and later she became overwhelmed while attempting to cope with his obsessions, notably with weapons. Her son had been adopted at birth, and she had raised him from infancy. According to Mr. Cruz’s attorney, Melisa McNeill, from the time of his first psychological evaluation when he was three years old until the day he carried out one of the deadliest mass school shootings in American history at the age of 19, Mr. Cruz dealt with a slew of therapists, teachers, psychiatrists, police officers, and counsellors who knew his problems were serious. Mr. Cruz carried out one of the deadliest mass school shootings in American history at the age of 19.
It should go without saying that none of these measures were successful in preventing the atrocity that took place at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14, 2018.
Ms. McNeill, an assistant public defender, made this assertion during her almost 90-minute opening statement at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale. She was arguing that “wounded and damaged individuals wound and harm other people because they are in agony.” Later on, she elaborated by saying, “Nikolas was poisoned when he was still in the womb.”
In the very uncommon trial of a shooter who survived a mass massacre, Mr. Cruz’s legal team started presenting their evidence on Monday in an effort to spare his life and clear his name. He entered a guilty plea last year to 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder, and his sentencing trial, which started in July, will determine whether he will be put to death or sentenced to life in prison without the chance of release.
Ms. McNeill admitted right from the beginning that the courtroom was “a environment filled with enormous sorrow, painful anguish, and trauma.”
She said that all of us have seen and heard things that no one should ever have to witness or hear. “There is only one person to blame for all of that suffering, and that person is Nikolas Cruz,” the victim’s family said after the shooting.
Ms. McNeill admitted that he continues to say and do unpleasant things when he is sitting in prison, such as scrawling “666” on the wall of his isolation cell with Atomic Fireball candy. According to what she claimed, he has suddenly been preoccupied with demons and Satan.
Ms. McNeill stated that it was not her job to excuse or rationalise the mass shooting, but rather to tell the story of the person who committed the crime and provide the jurors with “reasons for life.” These mitigating circumstances were to be weighed against the “aggravating factors” that the prosecution presented in order to justify the death penalty. Ms. McNeill emphasised that each juror must make their own decision on the punishment that should be imposed; a death sentence needs the unanimous decision of the jury, thus even one juror’s disagreement might result in a sentence of life in prison rather than the death penalty.
She informed them that “the law never mandates you to vote for death,” even “in the worst circumstance possible,” and she emphasised the importance of this point.
“Your life verdict can come from all of the things that Nikolas did not reveal.” It is possible for it to originate from grace, compassion, or mercy. These are the three possible origins.
She revealed that Mr. Cruz had had video chats from prison with Scarlett Lewis, whose son Jesse, who was six years old at the time of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, and that he had done so with Scarlett Lewis. The news caused the family of the Parkland victims to gasp in shock and amazement while they were in court.
Ms. McNeill said that both she and Nik were working together to find a solution to the problem of ensuring that anything similar would never occur again.