FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — In the four years since a former student killed 17 people and injured 17 others in Parkland, Fla., the classroom building where the shooting took place has remained standing, unused and fenced off, on the grounds of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Someday, the thinking went, the gunman could go on trial, and prosecutors might want to take jurors there to witness the remnant horrors of the tragedy from Feb. 14, 2018.
That trial began on Monday in a Fort Lauderdale courthouse with the first stages of jury selection in the state’s case against the gunman, Nikolas Cruz, who pleaded guilty in October to 17 murders and 17 attempted murders. Now, a jury will have to determine whether he should be sentenced to death or life in prison.
Though the trial will consist of only a sentencing phase, it could still last four to six months, according to lawyers for both sides. Prosecutors will detail how the gunman planned his rampage and killed or injured each of his victims. His public defense lawyers will lay out his difficult family life, mental health problems and attempts to get treatment. Testimony is expected from many victims and mental health experts.
emotional and painful toll from the two communities, Stoneman Douglas and Parkland, whose names became synonymous with America’s unbridled gun violence. The shooting, in a school of largely affluent teenagers vocal about their political opinions, ignited a national gun control movement and propelled young people and some of their parents into sustained activism.
adopted some gun restrictions, though the following year, it allowed some staff members in schools to carry guns. The tumultuous local repercussions to the shooting included the removal of the elected sheriff and the resignation of the superintendent of the county’s school system, following a perjury charge stemming from a grand jury investigation. Separately, a sheriff’s deputy assigned to Stoneman Douglas awaits trial on charges of felony neglect of a child for staying outside the building during the shooting.
Both the superintendent and the deputy have pleaded not guilty.
Killed in the shooting were Alyssa Alhadeff, 14; Scott Beigel, 35; Martin Duque, 14; Nicholas Dworet, 17; Aaron Feis, 37; Jaime Guttenberg, 14; Christopher Hixon, 49; Luke Hoyer, 15; Cara Loughran, 14; Gina Montalto, 14; Joaquin Oliver, 17; Alaina Petty, 14; Meadow Pollack, 18; Helena Ramsay, 17; Alex Schachter, 14; Carmen Schentrup, 16, and Peter Wang, 15.