Editor’s note: Prosecutors searching for the loss of life penalty in opposition to confessed Parkland college shooter Nikolas Cruz are tasked with convincing a jury to vote for execution over a lifestyles sentence. The protection group is making an attempt to persuade the jury that mercy in the structure of an existing sentence is warranted. This article, which consists of some of the pictures and textual content created with the aid of Cruz as he awaits his sentence, includes important points that some readers may additionally discover disturbing.
Parkland college shooter Nikolas Cruz nonetheless fantasizes about murdering humans he hates. He smeared the devil’s “666″ on his mobile phone wall recently, in his very own blood, and drew traumatic sketches of the usage of a purple Atomic FireBall candy. He’s satisfied he can put on a mask in court, he said, so the jurors can’t see him smile or laugh.
This is the character a crew of protection attorneys — paid for by way of the public — need to strive to generate sympathy for, beginning Monday, now that the prosecution has rested its case. Cruz pled responsible to gunning down 17 human beings and injuring 17 others on Feb. 14, 2018, so the trial is completely for sentencing — both lifestyles in prison, or the death penalty.
Creating a sympathetic storyline for jurors will require piecing collectively fragments. Buried in lots of pages of depositions and court docket filings are shreds of remorse, little slivers of humanity, and pointers that possibly some of Cruz’s troubles had been past his manipulation — sparkles the protection group will strive to construct a case from.
Cruz has nightmares about the bodies he left strewn inner the 1200 Building at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. He’s once in a while “sad” when he thinks about it. He wishes to set up an anti-bullying club, and a “homicide hotline” for bothered people. He stated Meadow Pollock, whom he killed, used to be “an excellent person” he knew. He dreaded dealing with the households in court and felt like “the most hated man in America” — particularly when a manageable juror flipped him off, and others burst into tears simply seeing him. His organic mom was once reportedly an alcoholic who might also have uncovered him to toxins in the womb. He was once allegedly sexually assaulted by a household buddy when he used to be an adolescent. His faculty file is each parent’s nightmare and all of the assistance he received failed.
But can any story of woe overcome the jurors’ recollections of on foot via the crime scene, of hearing, on most volume, audio of college women wailing and gunfire blasting, of witnessing the wreckage of families’ lives that made even Cruz’s personal lawyer cry?
The lots of documentation about Cruz’s existence at high-quality exhibit a younger man who, no matter limitless social and instructional offerings — and prescribed drugs — nonetheless can’t shed his fixation with matters vile and violent.
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz enters the court all through the penalty section of his trial at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale on July 20, 2022. (Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun Sentinel) (Mike Stocker / South Florida Sun Sentinel)
In recorded smartphone calls this 12 months to a friend, he alternates between searching ahead to jail due to the fact they serve extra greens than the prison does and voicing acceptance that he would possibly be executed.
His wish, he said, is to play video video games with his youthful brother Zachary earlier than he’s executed, and devour puffer fish for his last meal. He needs to be buried with a woman.
When a buddy advised society failed him, Cruz didn’t agree.
“Well to be trustworthy with you,” he stated a few months in the past in a taped conversation, “I blame myself greater than every person else.”
In every other call, “Nikolas Cruz states that if he was once on the jury, he would provide him the demise sentence.’’
If simply one juror on the panel of 12 is satisfied his lifestyle ought to be spared, it will be.
Judge Elizabeth Scherer will supply criminal guidelines to jurors earlier than they deliberate, however, it comes down to intestine feelings, said Stephen Bright, a Yale Law School lecturer, and capital case expert.
“We count on courts to make rational decisions, however dying penalty instances have a tendency to be very emotional,” he said. “They’re no longer as a lot about the idea occasionally as they are about the heart.”
Jurors have already considered the unpleasant darkness of the Parkland shooter. Though the protection will try to tie sympathetic threads, prosecutors will have the closing word, swooping lower back in with a rebuttal that’s positive to consist of greater of Cruz’s demons.
And his violence hasn’t ended. Even with all eyes on him as he strategies trial, Cruz drew murderous sketches in his cellphone numerous months ago, threatening to kill a schoolyard enemy and wishing for “another mass shooting.”
In jailhouse drawings the South Florida Sun Sentinel bought beneath kingdom files law, Cruz suggests no regret for his 2018 massacre.
A deputy doing an events test of his mobile phone in May noticed a drawing in red. Knowing inmates can’t have colored pencils, the deputy requested how he did it. Cruz stated he’d wetted an Atomic FireBall sweet from the canteen, the place he has adequate dollars from donors around the country.
The drawings have been in a stack of extra than 30 pages, all disturbing.
[ Drawings, writings by means of Parkland shooter depict violence and threats | Warning: Disturbing content ]
Among them was once a livid screed to the former classmate at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High. The two had a fistfight over a girl. The teen then allegedly posted something on Instagram that sexually humiliated Cruz.
“I desire you to f—ing be aware of I will locate a way to f—ing kill you. I even appoint humans to do the f—ing job,” the ranting tirade read. He stated the student’s mild used to be “the principal f—ing motive why I shot up Stoneman Douglas. the blood is no longer solely on my arms but yours as well.”
In the pile have been proclamations that “lucifer” is his father, and a declaration that “life is now not higher until you kill everybody and then do the equal to yourself, due to the fact existence will be difficult to you if you don’t, they will humiliate you and torture you until you break.”
One drawing suggests an overhead scene of the Parkland college shooting, with Cruz mocking those who known as his assault rifle as a “machine gun.” His adoration for weapons spills out all over the pages, which include specific drawings of his fantasized capturing homicide of a former classmate, and a drawing of the “next faculty shooter” spraying bullets at youngsters at desks.
“I desire to spoil your lives due to the fact I been an outcast from your f—ing society,” some other web page reads.
The pics have been confiscated by way of the jail, and he used to be positioned on suicide watch for a week, documents say.
The deputy additionally photographed a pentagram and “666″ scrawled on his cellphone wall in blood.
His requests for analyzing fabric replicate the dichotomy — Cruz the simpleton, and Cruz the killer. Records exhibit he requested a dictionary, books about fitness and exercise, and books about Pokemon, a Japanese animation.
And then on May 16: “I would like a satanic bible, please? Devil worshipping book. Unholy bible.”
He was once informed the detention center didn’t have those. A couple of weeks later, he tried again.
“am I in a position to get a bible on Lucifer?” The answer: “we do now not have that bible.”
Again on June 19, two months ago: “can I get an e-book on demonology?”
In the courtroom, the jury sees the 23-year-old Cruz hunched over, warding off eye contact, and searching small in a chair that’s sunk visibly decrease than the chairs of the attorneys around him.
Nervous about the trial, Cruz, a man or woman who at some stage in his life disrupted lecture rooms and couldn’t sit down via a one-hour television show, has sat docilely for hours, day after day, emotionless, scribbling with his left hand on a notepad.
In his cell, he has mocked the proceedings. He instructed a pal in a smartphone name at some stage in jury choice that he “was capable to see one juror’s breasts thru her shirt.”
He drew pics of the courtroom, attaching infantile or implied nicknames to attorneys and the judge. And twice in latest months he informed a household buddy over the smartphone that he used to be happy he ought to put on a mask so jurors couldn’t see him smile or laugh. Some days in court, he is the sole one at his desk sporting one.
He has complained in telephone name after cellphone name with buddies Richard Moore and Trish Devaney Westerlind about disliking court, stressed about going through the victims’ families, resolving no longer to watch any of the videos aired, and feeling like “the most hated man in America.”
His prison calls are all recorded, and summaries of the calls are written by means of Broward Sheriff’s Office Det. John Curcio. They had been launched to the Sun Sentinel beneath public data law.
Moore performs songs on the radio for him and tries to make him laugh. Moore and his spouse, Mike Donovan, took in Zachary Cruz quickly after the shooting. They had been strangers to the Cruz household then. Now, Moore places cash in Nikolas Cruz’s commissary account and takes his popular calls. Many days, he sits in court. On Thursday, he took plant life to the graves of Lynda and Roger Cruz, the adoptive parents.
“I have a challenge when we are taking those who are now not completely mentally developed like Nik and executing them,” he instructed the Sun Sentinel on Thursday. “Nik is that awkward youngster in faculty that didn’t healthy in and we all sense terrible about years later.”
Cruz talks to Moore about animals, Pokemon, the warfare in Ukraine, bestiality, and a porn movie referred to as two Girls, 1 Cup, information show. He talks about trying to have a canine in prison and to get married and have youngsters with a girl pen pal in England he loves. He appears ahead to jail the place he can work out and consume more healthily than in jail.
He feedbacks many times in his calls to Moore and Westerlind about the loss of life penalty.
“I assume I deserve it,” he informed Westerlind recently, “I’m no longer going to lie.”
Cruz’s attorneys have spent years now working on his defense, and have been publicly mum about it. But in current days and weeks, planks of the protection have collapsed one by way one.
The protection group these days deserted a “brain mapping” evaluation — quantitative electroencephalogram — that used to be based totally on photos of Cruz’s brain. And this week in court, the killer’s legal professionals published they’re losing even extra of the incapacity arguments. Though Cruz was once thinking by using some people, together with his mother, to have autism, the protection won’t make that assertion.
“It’s now not our function that Nikolas has autism spectrum disorder,” protection legal professional Casey Secor stated in court docket Thursday.
Another evaluation the protection labored on, primarily based on the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales for evaluating mental and developmental disorders, regarded Cruz’s conduct as a child, the use of testimony from a former household friend, Final Brown. But the evaluation through Dr. Natalie Novick Brown was once attacked in court docket filings by way of the prosecution.
“We are no longer the usage of those,” Secor introduced in the courtroom Thursday, stunning prosecutors.
Was it the alcohol that broke the shooter? The protection nevertheless plans to argue that Cruz’s organic mother, the late Brenda Woodard, drank alcohol whilst she was once pregnant with him and that he was once born with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.
Woodard’s daughter, Cruz’s half-sister Danielle Woodard, is being transported from the penal complex in Miami-Dade County to Broward County to testify for him. She and Westerlind, a longtime buddy of his adoptive mom Lynda Cruz, probably will be requested about Woodard’s consumption and drug use.
In hearings barring the jury present, Secor stated Thursday that the group would argue that odd behaviors that some took for autism have been rather proof of the alcohol exposure. Jurors would possibly be swayed to retail Cruz’s life, he said, if they accept it as true with he has a neurodevelopmental disorder.
“A character should say, ‘Well, anyone who commits 17 murders and does now not have a disorder, I’m in all likelihood gonna supply them the death penalty, however, if I assume they have a developmental disorder, I may lean closer to existence barring parole,’” Secor said, in a court docket debate over witness testimony.
Prosecutor Jeff Marcus stated the crew will counter that Cruz has no developmental disorder, however alternatively anti-social character sickness and borderline character disorder.
Westerlind has stated that Cruz used to be sexually assaulted as a boy, by the teen son of a household friend. That would possibly additionally be aired in court.
Jurors will hear about Cruz’s tortured faculty history. At age 5, for example, he obsessed with performing like a predatory animal, growling, crawling from chair to chair, and “snarling like an animal.” No faculty should manipulate Cruz. He was once violent, crude, and disruptive.
He attended Marjory Stoneman Douglas High for a brief period, however, was once removed.
Zachary Cruz, the shooter’s youthful brother, informed the Sun Sentinel he hopes anybody on the jury has sympathy for his “tortured outcast” brother. He stated many humans — social workers, counselors, psychologists, and bureaucrats — failed him.
“There is no excuse for what my brother did,” he stated in a written statement. “His sole hope is that he be proven high-quality mercy. My coronary heart aches for the households of these misplaced in Parkland. There is no punishment extreme adequate for these crimes. All my brother can hope for is mercy.”