The state vs. the defense: Two different points of view in Parkland shooter case

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Prosecutors and the defense team for confessed Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz will present numerous aggravating factors and mitigating factors to the jury as they seek to convince the jury whether Cruz should be sentenced to life in prison or death.

So what is the difference between an aggravating factor and a mitigating factor?

Prosecutors are expected to emphasize Cruz’s advanced planning of the Feb. 14, 2018, massacre and the horrific act as they work to present evidence of aggravating factors like premeditation beyond a reasonable doubt.

The defense team will likely focus on Cruz’s background, his childhood, mental condition, history of mental health issues and related medical documentation as they present evidence of the mitigating factors they want jurors to consider.

The definition of mitigating factors, according to Cornell Law School, are “Factors that lessen the severity or culpability of a criminal act, including, but not limited to, defendant’s age or extreme mental or emotional disturbance at the time the crime was committed, mental retardation, and lack of a prior criminal record. Recognition of particular mitigating circumstances varies by jurisdiction.”

The law school defines aggravating factors as “Any fact or circumstance that increases the severity or culpability of a criminal act. Aggravating factors include recidivism, lack of remorse, amount of harm to the victim, or committing the crime in front of a child, among many others. The recognition of particular aggravating factors varies by jurisdiction.”

Below is a sample of the jury verdict form for death penalty cases:

About the Authors:

Christina returned to Local 10 in 2019 as a reporter after covering Hurricane Dorian for the station. She is an Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist and previously earned an Emmy Award while at WPLG for her investigative consumer protection segment "Call Christina."

Amanda Batchelor is the Digital Executive Producer for