Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz formally received a sentence of life without parole Wednesday after families of the 17 people he killed spent two days berating him as evil, a coward, a monster, and subhuman. Cruz, shackled and in a red jail jumpsuit, watched intently as Judge Elizabeth Scherer sentenced him to 17 life terms for the Feb. 14, 2018, massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in suburban Fort Lauderdale and an additional 17 for the attempted murders of those he wounded. Scherer had no choice; the jury in Cruz’s three-month penalty trial voted 9-3 on Oct. 13 to sentence him to death, but Florida law requires unanimity for that sentence to be imposed, the AP reports.
Cruz acknowledged under questioning by the judge before sentencing that he is on medication but could understand what was occurring. The sentencing came after two days' worth of victims' grandparents, parents, wives, siblings, and others, as well as some of the surviving wounded, walking to a lectern to address the killer face-to-face. Cruz stared at the speakers but showed little emotion. The judge commended the families and the wounded who testified, calling them strong, graceful, and patient. "I know you are going to be OK, because you have each other," Scherer said. The judge’s voice broke as she read the first of the 34 life sentences, but her voice gained strength and volume as she moved down the list. Some parents and other family members wept as she read.
Earlier Wednesday, Linda Beigel Schulman, mother of teacher Scott Beigel, spoke of vengeance when she got her turn to confront Cruz. "Real justice would be done if every family here were given a bullet and your AR-15 and we got to pick straws, and each one of us got to shoot one at a time at you, making sure that you felt every bit of it, and your fear continued to mount until the last family member who pulled that last straw had the privilege of making sure that they killed you," Beigel Schulman said. "That’s real justice for you." When Jennifer Guttenberg, mother of victim Jaime Guttenberg, got up to speak, she started by admonishing Cruz for hiding his face and expressions behind a blue COVID mask, prompting Cruz to remove the face covering. (Read more Nikolas Cruz stories.)