The jury of twelve will be tasked with deciding whether Cruz, who pleaded guilty last year, will be sentenced to death, or life without the possibility of parole. A death sentence requires a unanimous decision.
As The New York Times reports, Cruz’s trial is unique, since most mass shooters either committed suicide or were killed on scene by law enforcement. It is also unique given the low number of executions in America in recent decades.
The jury will have to view the evidence and hear testimony from those impacted while the killer sits in front of them, a spectacle rarely seen for crimes of such severity.
According to the Times, members of the jury and their alternatives were selected from a pool of around 1,800. During the interview process, they were questioned about their views on gun ownership, and ability to handle disturbing images. Additionally, given the nature of the case, jurors could not be “universally opposed” to the death penalty.
During the trial, which is set to be televised across the country, prosecutors will present the details of the seventeen murders Cruz committed, as well as the seventeen additional attempted murders he was also convicted of.
Cruz’s lawyers have suggested that he should be spared the death penalty given his rough upbringing and mental health issues. They have even attempted to enter as evidence a map of Cruz’s brain.
With the Uvalde school massacre fresh in the minds of Americans, Cruz’s lawyers also asked that the trial be delayed so as not to let current events impact the jury’s decision. Their request was denied.
On February 14, 2018, Cruz entered Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Florida, with a legally obtained semiautomatic rifle and hundreds of rounds of ammunition. He proceeded to gun down fourteen of his fellow students, and three faculty members.
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