FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – After Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer sentenced the Parkland school shooter to 34 consecutive mandatory life sentences in prison without the possibility of parole and remanded him to the custody of the Florida Department of Corrections, the 24-year-old convicted felon waited in the Broward County main jail.
The families of the 2018 Valentine’s Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School victims got the last word during a two-day sentencing hearing that allowed them to express themselves with symbolic colors, the photographs of their loved ones on jewelry and signs — and from behind a podium.
During the penalty phase, Scherer and Chief Assistant Public Defender Melisa McNeill had several heated exchanges. McNeill’s last words in Scherer’s courtroom Wednesday were to ask that the grieving relatives of the victims not mention the defense’s children or attack the defense. Scherer denied her request.
“I did my job, and every member of this team did our job, and we should not personally be attacked for that,” McNeill told Scherer.
An emotionless Nikolas Cruz sat with a group of Broward Sheriff’s Office deputies behind him. He was next to Casey Secor, his capital defense attorney, and the rest of the members of the public defense team that fought to save his life and managed to convince three of the 12 jurors to do the same.
From the podium on Tuesday and Wednesday, some of the victims’ parents condemned the defense’s effort to “humanize” “a monster,” “a murderous bastard,” and “an animal” and accused them of “putting up a show” to “manipulate” the jurors. They didn’t name Assistant Public Defender Tamara Curtis, who wasn’t in the courtroom, but they mentioned and responded to her behavior in court.
“When these people are upset about specific things that have gone on from that table like shooting the middle finger up at this court and laughing and joking ... When these people have sat in this courtroom and watched this behavior from that table and they want to say that they are not happy about it, what is the problem?” Scherer told the defense.
Jail calls showed Cruz was in touch with two men who had an interest in making a movie or a documentary, so Scherer also ordered him not to profit from the crimes while in prison. She listed other orders that assured that he will never have a penny to his name by allowing Broward County to garnish his funds for victims’ restitution and to pay for a list of expenses, including the cost of the public defense that kept him away from the death penalty.
After the sentencing hearing ended, Scherer hugged the prosecutors. She also spent time with some of the victims’ parents, some of whom decided not to speak during the sentencing hearing.
>Here is what happened on Day 1 of the sentencing hearing
>Here is what happened on Day 2 of the sentencing hearing
Victim impact statements without restrictions
The family of murder victim Christopher Hixon
Ines Maria Hixon
The parents of murder victim Scott Biegel
Linda Biegel Schulman
The mother of murder victim Helena Ramsay
The family and girlfriend of murder victim Joaquin Oliver
Patricia Padauy Oliver
The mother of murder victim Nicholas Dworet
The sister of murder victim Alaina Joann Petty
The father of murder victim Alexander Schachter
The parents of murder victim Jaime Guttenberg
The father and brother of murder victim Gina Montalto
Anthony Montalto III
Anthony Montalto II
The family of murder victim Alyssa Alhadeff
Parents: Lori and Ilan Alhadeff
Grandmother: Theresa Robinovitz
Grandfather: David Robinovitz
Uncle: David Alhadeff
Grandmother: Representative reads Vicky Alhadeff’s statement
Representatives read statements of Carmen Schentrup’s parents
Mother: April Schentrup
Father: Philip Schentrup
Injured survivors and their families
Samantha Fuentes was injured in the classroom where Helena Ramsay and Nicholas Dworet died
Stacey Lippel was injured near where her colleague Scott Beigel was killed
The parents of injured survivor Benjamin Wikander: Bree and Eric Wikander
The mother of injured survivor Samantha Mayor: Ellyn Mayor