FL v. CRUZ: Parkland School Shooter Penalty Phase

Posted at 12:59 AM, July 18, 2022 and last updated 3:38 PM, July 14, 2023

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (Court TV) — Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz was sentenced to 34 consecutive life sentences on Nov. 2.

Three weeks after a jury recommended Cruz spend his life in prison without the possibility of parole, Judge Elizabeth Scherer heard two days of victim impact statements before formally sentencing Cruz.


Last October, Cruz pleaded guilty to murdering 17 people and wounding 17 others in the 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The Valentine’s Day tragedy remains one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history.

Opening statements in the penalty phase began July 18. A seven-man, five-woman jury has since heard testimony from dozens of witnesses, including survivors and medical experts.

The jury also visited the preserved crime scene on Aug. 4, retracing Cruz’s steps.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School

The 1200 building at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., is pictured, on Wednesday, October 20, 2021. (Carline Jean/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)

RELATED: A Court TV producer’s firsthand look inside the scene of Parkland school shooting

The State pushed for Cruz, who is now 24, to be put to death for his crimes. Lead prosecutor Mike Satz, who came out of retirement for this case, urged the jurors to look at the evidence of Cruz’s planning, contemplation, and preparation of the shootings in his closing argument.

In the defense closing argument, Chief Assistant Public Defender Melisa McNeill said Cruz’s life circumstances should be the focus of their deliberations and not his actions on the day of the shooting. McNeil asked the jury to give Cruz a life sentence. “It’s the right thing to do. Mercy is what makes us civilized. Giving mercy to Nikolas will say more about who you are than it will ever say about him,” McNeill told the jury.


DAY 37 – 11/2/22 – SENTENCING
  • Nikolas Cruz was sentenced to 34 consecutive life sentences for killing 17 people and injuring 17 more in the Parkland school shooting massacre.
  • Judge Elizabeth Scherer heard searing victim impact statements from shooting survivor Samantha Fuentes and the loved ones of victims Joaquin Oliver, Scott Beigel, Jaime Guttenberg, Carmen Schentrup and Alyssa Alhadeff.

    Debbie Hixon, right, kisses her daughter-in-law, Ines Hixon, after she gave a victim impact statement in the sentencing hearing for Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. on Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2022. Debbie Hixon’s husband, Christopher, was killed in the 2018 shootings. Cruz was sentenced to life in prison for murdering 17 people at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School more than four years ago. (Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel via AP, Pool)

  • Scherer had heartfelt words for the victims’ families before imposing sentence. She commended them for their grace and composure throughout the trial, saying she would “carry” their pain “so you could breathe for a minute” if she could.
  • Addressing Cruz directly, shooting survivor Samantha Fuentes recalled how he “terrorized and fought” classmates who tried to befriend him. “You may have everyone fooled but not me… you were a hateful bigot with an AR-15 and a god complex.”
  • Another former MSD student, Joaquin Oliver’s girlfriend, Victoria Gonzalez, recalled her time in class with Cruz. “I was rooting for you, silently, because I felt like you needed someone or something.” She went on to say that she once “blamed society for creating the hatred in you,” but not anymore. “I’m sorry you never saw the love the world is capable of.”
  • Tuesday’s controversy over the defense’s objections to being personally targeted carried into today as family members chose to address the statements in their victim impact statements.
  • Manuel Oliver – father of victim Joaquin — made his first appearance in the courtroom after being advised not to attend the trial out of concerns he may lash out and cause a mistrial. He told Cruz he would never get the fame and adoration he craved because the victims’ legacies will outshine his infamy.
DAY 36 – 11/1/22 – SENTENCING
DAY 35 – 10/13/22
DAY 34 – 10/12/22
  • The 12-person jury deliberated for six hours and 50 minutes before the judge excused them for the day.
  • Alternates were sent home but remain on standby in case a seated juror drops out.
  • The jury sent three questions about an hour and 25 minutes into deliberations.
  • The jury asked for readbacks of a state expert and a defense expert with conflicting opinions about whether Cruz suffered from a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder that affected his self-control.
  • The defense objected to letting the jury only hear cross of their expert, Dr. Paul Connor, but the judge let it happen anyway.
  • After hearing the defense expert’s cross, the jury foreperson said their question was answered and they no longer needed to hear the state expert.
  • The jury also wanted copies of the latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5-TR) and CDC guidelines referenced in both experts’ testimony with respect to diagnosing a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.
  • Everyone agreed the jury couldn’t see them because they weren’t admitted into evidence.
  • Just as Judge Scherer was about to dismiss the jury for the day, she received a note from them asking to see the murder weapon.
  • Judge Scherer said the sheriff’s office told her the firearm couldn’t go into to the jury room because of security reasons, prompting an irate retort from prosecutor Mike Satz about how the sheriff’s office can’t control what the jury sees.
  • After some discussion, Judge Scherer assured Satz the sheriff’s office was working on it and would come up with a solution by the morning.
  • READ MORE: Jury deliberating in Parkland school shooter trial
DAY 33 – 10/11/22
  • Closing arguments took up most of Tuesday as both sides made their final appeal to the jury.
  • Broward County Assistant State Attorney Mike Satz — who came out of retirement for this case – focused on Cruz’s actions before the shooting and the grisly nature of the crimes to argue the existence of seven aggravating factors:
    • Cruz was convicted of other capital felonies or felonies involving the use of violence (34 “contemporaneous convictions” for the murders of 17 people and the attempted murder of 17 more people + three convictions stemming from the attack on a jail guard)
    • Cruz knowingly created a great risk of death to many people
    • The first-degree murder was committed during a burglary (entering the school grounds without permission)
    • The first-degree murder was especially heinous, atrocious or cruel
    • The first-degree murder was committed in a cold, calculated and premeditated manner
    • The first-degree murder was committed to disrupt or hinder the lawful exercise of any governmental function (applies only to adult school employees, Aaron Feis, Chris Hixon, Scott Beigel)
    • The victim was an appointed public official engaged in the performance of their official duties (applies only to adult school employees, Aaron Feis, Chris Hixon, Scott Beigel)
  • “It’s not a counting process, it’s a weighing process,” Satz said of deliberations.
  • Satz urged the jurors to look at evidence of Cruz’s planning, contemplation and preparation of the shootings, from his YouTube comments and cell phone videos boasting of his plans and his research of other school shootings to the efforts he undertook to assemble his arsenal and transport them to the school. Satz retraced the gunman’s path, describing the deaths of each person. The prosecutor emphasized Cruz’s deliberate steps from floor to floor seeking out targets and the number of times Cruz returned to injured victims with the goal of “finishing them off.” Satz said Cruz’s actions showed his capacity for executive functioning traits that were inconsistent with conditions resulting from prenatal alcohol syndrome.
  • Arguing for the defense, Chief Assistant Public Defender Melisa McNeill said Cruz’s life circumstances should be the focus of their deliberations and not his actions on the day of the shooting. Cruz already admitted his guilt and the purpose of the proceeding was to determine punishment, she said. She described Cruz as a brain-damaged, mentally ill, broken person who was poisoned in the womb by his birth mother and never got the treatment he needed because the school system and his adoptive mother overlooked warning signs. And she accused the state of trying to inflame jurors’ emotions by repeatedly playing surveillance video of the shooting, including in the state closing. McNeill suggested the state was trying to get the jury to issue a decision based on anger and emotion.
  • McNeill was close to tears at various points as she appealed to jurors’ moral compass in arguing for mercy. Executing Cruz won’t bring back the victims, she said, whereas mercy brings an end to violence, she said. “Mercy is not earned or deserved. it is bestowed upon someone… Giving mercy to Nikolas will say more about who you are than it will about him.”
  • READ MORE: Attorneys argue over school shooter’s fate: death or prison
DAY 32 – 10/10/22
DAY 31- 10/6/22
DAY 29 – 10/4/22
DAY 28 – 10/3/22
DAY 27 – 9/27/22
  • The state begins their rebuttal case
    • READ MORE: Expert questions whether school shooter’s mom drank heavily
      • Prosecution expert Dr. Charles Scott, a forensic psychiatrist at the University of California, Davis, testified that while defense experts and witnesses have said Cruz’s birth mother, Brenda Woodard, drank fortified wine and malt liquor during pregnancy, he said there is scant evidence supporting that in her medical records.
      • Prosecutors used Scott’s testimony to show the jury swastikas drawn on Cruz’s gun magazine and his boots, his online racism and misogyny and his online searches for child pornography.
      • They say those details support Scott’s diagnosis that Cruz’s murder of 14 students and three staff members at the high school was driven by antisocial personality disorder — commonly known as being a sociopath.
      • Scott testified that Cruz is capable of controlling his behavior but chooses not to as he has no regard for others, the leading trait of antisocial personality disorder. He also showed video clips from his three days of interviews with Cruz from last March.
      • Prior to Scott taking the stand, prosecutors used Broward County sheriff’s investigators and a jail guard to introduce the swastikas that were drawn on the magazine found in Cruz’s AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle and his use of anti-Black and anti-woman slurs online.
      • Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer only allowed prosecutors to present a fraction of the online searches and comments Cruz made, saying more would be excessively prejudicial. There is no contention that Cruz specifically targeted girls or minorities. Eight of his victims were girls and four were racial minorities.
9/19/22: Motions Hearing
  • Prosecutors in Broward County, Florida, filed an amended response over the weekend to Nikolas Cruz’s motion to disqualify Judge Elizabeth Scherer.
  • Cruz’s motion claims he cannot get a fair trial under Scherer because of her “long-standing” “animosity” toward the defense. The defense claims she revealed her true feelings on Wednesday when she lashed out at the defense for resting without giving the court or prosecutors notice and said her reaction was “long overdue” because the defense has been rude and insulting to her throughout the trial.
  • The state’s amended motion contains a transcript of Wednesday’s exchange with emphasis on the lead up, when the judge repeatedly asked the defense to identify their next witness and the defense lawyers failed to say outright that they were resting. The state claims the Court “was justifiably concerned with defense counsels’ lack of candor,” and argues that what happened Wednesday is no reason to disqualify Scherer.
    • DEFENSE MOTION EXCERPT: The Court has now revealed that its animosity toward lead defense counsel is long-held and has infected this entire trial. Without the benefit of knowing that the Court has held this animosity, Mr. Cruz has accepted numerous adverse rulings as any defendant would in the normal course of a trial. However, now that the Court has made clear that its feelings towards defense counsel are long-standing and pervasive, Mr. Cruz has a reasonable belief that the rulings of the Court have been influenced by its adverse feelings which do not go to the legal issue before the Court. Mr. Cruz also has a reasonable belief that the Court’s ruling going forward will be influenced by the Court’s adverse and pervasive feelings towards defense counsel and he will not receive a fair and impartial trial.

DAY 26 – 9/14/22

  • Nikolas Cruz’s defense rested its mitigation case after calling 26 witnesses over 11 days in a move that apparently caught the judge and the state by surprise
    • Judge Elizabeth Scherer lit into the defense for the lack of notice, saying she had never witnessed anything so “unprofessional” in her career, prompting a tense exchange between her and lead defense lawyer Melisa McNeill about whose behavior was more unprofessional or “insulting.”
    • WATCH: Defense Rests in Parkland School Massacre Penalty Phase
  • Broward County prosecutors said they were not ready to begin their rebuttal case because the defense had told them to expect two witnesses today. Prosecutor Carolyn McCann said the state could be ready by Tuesday, September 27, since the courthouse is closed on September 26.
  • Also, on top of standard questioning of a defendant about choosing not to testify, McCann asked the judge to take the additional step of asking Cruz if he agreed to the strategy. Scherer asked the question – in what’s called a colloquy — over objections from the defense, who argued such a question would invade the attorney-client privilege.
  • McCann also read into the record all 80 names on the defense’s witness list as part of the state’s request to perfect the record.
  • Cruz said he agreed and trusted his lawyers even though he didn’t recognize most of the people named, except for his brother, Zachary Cruz, and his Zachary’s caretaker, Richard Moore. He said he accepted the decision to not call his brother or anyone else.
  • The jury is told to return Tuesday, Sept. 27.
  • READ MORE: Defense suddenly rests case in Florida school shooter trial 

DAY 25 – 9/13/22

  • Neuropsychologist Paul Connor finished his testimony on cross and redirect by defending his methods for assessing Cruz and explaining why he’s not board certified.
  • Pediatrician Kenneth Lyons Jones – one of the doctors who coined the term fetal alcohol syndrome — explained his reasons for diagnosing Cruz with disorders associated with prenatal alcohol exposure other than fetal alcohol syndrome.
  • One of the reasons: Cruz’s facial features didn’t fit the profile of fetal alcohol syndrome.
  • Jones testified that he never saw so much evidence of alcohol abuse in a pregnant mother as he did in Cruz’s biological mother, and that Cruz didn’t get the right treatment or services because he never received a proper diagnosis.
  • On cross, both defense experts stood by their opinions that Cruz showed deficits in executive functioning– features of fetal alcohol-related disorders — despite evidence that Cruz spent months thinking about committing a mass shooting.
  • READ MORE: Expert: School shooter’s mother drank heavily in pregnancy

DAY 24 – 9/12/22

  • The direct examination via Zoom of Dr. Paul Connor took up nearly the entire day as he laid the foundation for his diagnosis of neurodevelopmental disorder associated with prenatal alcohol exposure, known in the DSM-5 as ND-PAE.
  • Prosecutor Michael Satz gets about ten minutes of cross examination before a prolonged sidebar leads the judge to recess for the day.
  • Connor opined on direct that Cruz’s birth mother’s substance abuse while pregnant with him damaged his brain, causing behavioral and cognitive abnormalities that set him apart from his peers, including poor impulse control and decision-making skills; bad judgement; learning difficulties; problems with social interactions and expressing himself; deficits in memory, attention and motor skills.
  • Connor was tasked with reviewing Cruz’s school records, birth/adoption records, and clinical notes and performing his own evaluation of Cruz to determine if Cruz’s present functioning is consistent with a diagnosis under the umbrella of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD).
  • Before Connor’s testimony, the state accused the defense of preventing them from having the chance to question Brenda Woodard before she died in 2021 by raising FASD only after Cruz pleaded guilty.
  • READ MORE: Psychologist: School shooter suffered fetal alcohol damage

DAY 23 – 9/2/22

  • Tiffany Forrest – Nikolas Cruz’s case manager at Henderson Behavior Health
    • Described dysfunction in the Cruz home; when Nikolas and Zachary were home during her visits, the meetings would become chaotic
    • Nikolas would have outbursts, described him yelling at screaming at Lynda Cruz, destroying items in the home
    • Lynda Cruz was concerned with Nikolas’ hygiene – he would never shower or brush his teeth
    • Lynda Cruz feared living in her home because her personal belongings would go missing. She would walk around with her purse because the boys would take things from her.
    • Nikolas wasn’t mature for his age, at the age of 13 or 14, he acted more like an 8 or 9-year-old
  • Det. Jeffrey Smith – Broward County Sheriff’s Office (retired)
    • Patrol officer from 2011-2014
    • January 11, 2011 – Called to Cruz home. Zachary Cruz was hitting walls in the home with a baseball bat. He also damaged furniture and hit his mother.
    • November 27, 2012 – Lynda Cruz called the police on Zachary for hitting her with a plastic hose from the vacuum.
    • September 26, 2012 – 12-year-old son (Nikolas) was throwing things around and cursing at Lynda Cruz.
    • May 7, 2014 – Henderson Behavioral Health called on behalf of Lynda Cruz. Zachary was cursing at Lynda and breaking windows. He was refusing to go to school.
  • Liliana Pardo-Posse – Broward County Schools social worker (retired)
    • Conducted a Psycho-Social Assessment Q&A of Nikolas Cruz with Lynda Cruz
    • Team made a recommendation to move Nikolas to Cross Creek Alternative School

DAY 22 – 9/1/22

  • Carrie Yon, Nikolas Cruz’s 8th Grade English Teacher
    • Cruz’s 8th Grade Language Arts (English) Teacher – 2013
    • Class was not a ESE class – general teacher
    • Uncomfortable around Cruz – kept her eye on Cruz and his behavior issues
    • Kept records journal of Cruz’s behavioral issues and his classwork
    • Records were saved on a computer and kept in a folder
    • Course work contained curse words and violent and sexual stick figures
    • Cruz constantly asked why he was at Westglades Middle School and not another school
    • Notified school officials and administrator of Cruz’s behavior
    • Yon and one other teacher created an action plan for Cruz because nothing was being done
    • No behavioral issues with other students in the class
    • Yon was scared of Cruz – students were afraid at time
    • Yon and another teacher got into a confrontation about Cruz – did not want to create a behavioral plan
    • Cruz’s mother, Lynda Cruz, seemed like she understood but made excuses for him
    • Saved documents so they would not get lost and kept original copies
    • Cruz was defiant and disrupted class
    • There was physical aggression towards Cruz and Yon – Cruz pushed her a couple of time
    • The artwork on the school work got worst and more aggressive
  • John M. Vesey, Principal at Westglades Middle School (Ret.)

DAY 21 – 8/31/22

  • Paul Gold – Nikolas Cruz’s next door neighbor
    • Moved into a rental next door to the Cruz family in 2008 with his fiancée Roxanne and their children
    • Roxanne moved into the home first and was already friends with Lynda Cruz
    • Witnessed Nikolas’ odd behavior at the age of 8 or 9 years old
    • Lynda told Gold that she did not have money and was struggling with the boys
    • Lynda padlocked the refrigerator because the boys were eating all of the food
    • There were holes in the drywall and damage to the bathroom doors
    • Nikolas would talk about things that were not appropriate and start to have outbursts
    • Gold’s daughter used to call Nikolas “Nik-o-Lit”
    • Nikolas would be okay and then go “boom.” After an episode, Nikolas would become calm and apologetic
    • Nikolas was upset a toad poisoned one of the dogs, and he went on a killing spree killing toads
    • Friendship with Lynda ended after someone stole an iPad belonging to Gold’s friend. Gold never forgave Lynda or Zachery for the iPad theft
    • Nikolas calls Gold from jail and they are now friends
    • Gold wanted to introduce Nikolas to his famous producer friend
    • He was supposed to be an extra in a movie and was excited
    • Told Nikolas he was working with comic book writer Stan Lee
    • Gold was curious why no one had approached him about a movie deal
    • Gold was upset that Lynda lied to him about the kids being his biological sons and her financial situation
    • Never forgave Zachery after allegedly stealing an iPad when he was 13 but forgives Nikolas for committing a mass murder
    • WATCH: Parkland School Massacre: Former Cruz Neighbor Testifies
    • READ MORE: Neighbor: School shooter killed toads after 1 poisoned dog
  • Patrol Dep. James Snell – Broward County Sheriff’s Office
    • Responded to a call at the Cruz home on September 26, 2011, at 8:39 pm
    • Zachery was acting out at home, and Lynda wanted the police to act as a parent
    • Snell asked Lynda not to use law enforcement as a parenting tool
    • Zachery was not arrested or charged with a crime
  • Ofc. Gary Michalosky – Broward County Sheriff’s Office
    • Responded to the Cruz home two or three times between 2011 and 2013
    • Police responded to the home 15 times
    • Altercation between Lynda Cruz and Nikolas Cruz on January 15, 2013
      • Nikolas refused to go to school, and Lynda took his Xbox from his room and locked it in the trunk of her car
      • Nikolas barricaded himself inside his room
      • Nikolas was handcuffed and placed in the patrol car
      • Lynda said Nikolas suffered from emotional issues and ADHD
      • Incident report written – Nikolas was not arrested
      • Nikolas apologized to his mother while police were present

DAY 20 – 8/30/22

  • Finai Browd – Friend of Lynda and Roger Cruz, continued…
    • Moved to Florida 10 months before Lynda and Roger Cruz
    • Lynda & Roger Cruz built a 4500-square-foot home in Parkland, Florida
    • Birth mom was taken to all doctor’s appointment to ensure health of the babies
    • Nikolas and Zachery were born one year and five months apart
    • Nikolas had less behavioral issues if someone was tough with him
    • Friendship deteriorated with Lynda after Lynda became friends with Roxanne
  • Jessica Clark Flournoy, ESE Family Counselor
    • Counseled Cruz at Westglades Middle School in Broward County from 2011 to 2013
    • Met with Cruz 30 minutes per week and increased to 45 minutes when he started the 8th grade
    • Cruz struggled academically and was concerned about his grades
    • He feared his brother would catch up with him in grade levels
    • Felt that Westglades was not the appropriate school for Cruz because there were not enough resources
    • Testified to multiple incidents of Cruz’s disruptive classroom behavior
  • Susan Skolly-Danzeger, Forensic Toxicologist
    • Cruz was born with Meconium, which seeped into the amniotic fluids
    • Birth mother tested positive for cocaine
      • Drank one bottle of Cisco during her pregnancy
    • Cruz was prescribed Choline to help with his liver and brain function
    • Cruz was prescribed medication for ADHD
    • At 8 or 9 – Cruz was prescribed Ryhenthenial and Risperidone
    • Currently taking medication for bi-polar and schizophrenia disorders
    • Cruz is not depressed or suicidal

DAY 19 – 8/29/22

  • Lynn Rodriguez – Nikolas Cruz’s ESE (Special Education) teacher in 3rd and 4th grade
    • Cruz had an emotional behavioral disorder and a language disorder that made him eligible for the “ESE cluster.”
    • Cruz scored below grade level on standardized tests in 3rd grade. In 4th, he reached grade level in reading but not in other subjects.
    • Cruz was temporarily “mainstreamed” into in 4th grade (as a result of a committee decision), then brought back into the “ESE cluster” because of behavioral issues.
    • On cross-examination, Rodriguez describes behaviors that got Cruz sent back to ESE cluster: hitting students, curing, throwing things, ripping up other students’ work. Rodriguez agrees with prosecutor that such behavior in an adult would be considered a crime.
      • Prosecutor Jeff Marcus highlighted Cruz’s academic improvement and a psychiatric evaluation showing his cognitive functioning and reasoning skills were in the average range.
  • Finai Browd – Friend of Lynda and Roger Cruz
    • Browd and Lynda Cruz met in 1986 in Long Island while they both worked as secretaries at an insurance company.
    • Lynda Cruz was raised by her grandparents. She had four miscarriages and really wanted to be a mother.
    • Lynda didn’t tell Browd about adopting Nikolas Cruz until after it happened – she also didn’t tell her family or friends.
    • When Nikolas was 4, Browd started noticing something was off because his behavior and tantrums were more extreme than any other child’s.
    • Nikolas didn’t accept change well and Lynda caved to his demands. He was also severely attached to Lynda and would cry for hours when she left him.
    • When recalling Roger Cruz’s death, Browd said, “Lynda told me what happened. She said Roger wasn’t feeling well. He was about to go to the doctor. He was in the den with the boys and I was making lunch in the kitchen. And I saw Nikolas – Nikolas came running down the hallway and ran into his room that was close to the kitchen and he was crying. And she said, “What happened Nikolas? Did daddy yell at you?” And he said no – as clear as the sunshine – No. Daddy’s dead.”
    • After Roger Cruz died, Lynda added Browd to her bank accounts to take care of Nikolas and Zach should anything happen to her.
    • Their friendship deteriorated after Lynda accused Browd of applying for a bank card on the account.
    • Browd’s husband tried stepping in as a father figure for Zach and Nikolas, who was held back in the second grade. Nikolas became aggressive with Browd’s children.
    • Several years later, Lynda asked for Browd’s help cosigning on a car loan.
    • WATCH: Parkland School Massacre: Friend of Cruz’s Adoptive Mother Testifies
  • Shameka Stanford – Juvenile Forensic Speech and Language Pathologist
    • Stanford specialist in child language disorders. She testifies that language disorders cannot be cured.
    • Stanford began reviewing Cruz’s case in 2019:
      • ESE teacher provided treatment primarily focusing on speech production
      • Nikolas Cruz began speaking when he was two years old
      • Cruz chronological years fell two years behind children his age
      • Cruz struggled to communicate with his peers
      • Conducted testing under his age group to see if there was progression with his language and functionality disorders

DAY 18 – 8/25/22

  • The jury heard from two psychiatrists who oversaw Cruz’s medication management when he was nine to 19 years old.
  • One of them, Dr. Brett Negin, appeared to be caught off guard by a troubling letter sent to him by Cruz’s school in 2014, when Cruz was 15. It warned of Cruz’s preoccupation with guns and dreams of killing people. Negin said he never received the letter and no one followed up with him about it.
  • Negin discussed another letter he wrote supporting Cruz’s voluntary placement in residential treatment. The defense said in its opening that Lynda Cruz ultimately did not opt for residential treatment for Cruz because she would lose Cruz’s social security benefits.
  • Negin said he did not consider involuntarily committing Cruz, or “Baker acting” him, echoing what others who treated Cruz have said.
  • The testimony of the two psychiatrists added to a chaotic picture of a family in crisis as Lynda Cruz tried to manage her older son’s symptoms through a patchwork of services and medications — but nothing seemed to work.
  • The defense contends Cruz’s progress was minimal because service providers didn’t have the full picture of Cruz’s medical background –namely, his birth mother’s substance abuse — because Lynda Cruz withheld or minimized it. They’ve also suggested that Lynda Cruz failed to keep Cruz on a consistent regimen per doctors’ recommendations or enforce disciplinary boundaries.
  • Prosecutors contend Cruz acted out and resisted his mother’s efforts on his own accord due to antisocial tendencies and that he liked the attention he got from service providers.

DAY 17 – 8/24/22

  • The jury hears about the array of counseling services Cruz received outside of school for anxiety, speech therapy and anger management.
  • Cruz’s treatment was inconsistent and too short-lived to be effective, psychologist Dr. Frederick Kravitz said, but nothing could have foretold the devastation Cruz wrought.
  • Dr. Kravitz said Cruz had an “active bad imagination” and fixated on negative things. He displayed signs consistent with autism and obsessive-compulsive disorder, although he was not diagnosed with either.
  • More details emerge about Cruz’s combative relationship with his brother and Lynda Cruz’s parenting struggles.
  • In a sample of 37 service calls to the Cruz home, 27 were for Zach Cruz, 6 were for both boys, and four were for the defendant.
  • Cruz neighbor Steven Schusler offers colorful testimony about his impressions of “Nicky,” the boy who lived up to another neighbor’s description as “the weird one” and “shriveled up” like a snail doused in salt in the presence of others.
  • Schusler said he felt bad for the awkward boy, who he likened to oddball “Leave it to Beaver” character Larry Mondello and Mad magazine mascot Alfred E. Neuman.
  • Schusler nevertheless felt compelled to reach out to the defense after he saw Cruz plead guilty and let the world know that nothing like drugs made Cruz “go bad” because “he was never right.”
  • Mental health counselor Caridad Harvey offered a window into Cruz’s inner thoughts: He wished his dad were still alive, he wanted to learn more about animals and space, and his goals for therapy were to feel safe and happy.

DAY 16 – 8/23/22

  • The defense’s journey through Nikolas Cruz’s evolution continued with testimony about his emotional and behavioral struggles in preschool and elementary school.
  • Cruz’s overall progress as a student with special needs under an individualized education plan was “inconsistent,” but one constant was his negative perception of himself. He often said, “I’m just stupid” and “I’m a freak.”
  • A new bombshell allegation of childhood sexual assault was stricken from the record after Judge Elizabeth Scherer ruled against hearsay testimony of family friend Patricia Devaney-Westerlind.
    • In a proffer outside the jury’s presence, Devaney-Westerlind went into detail, saying Lynda Cruz told her in a phone call between 2010 and 2014 that she found a neighborhood boy sodomizing Cruz in his bedroom.
  • In a confrontational cross of Devaney-Westerlind, the jury witnessed shouts and crosstalk as prosecutor Nicole Chiappone tried to cast doubt on her timeline and motives, pushing the witness close to tears.
  • As the parental focus shifts to Cruz’s adoptive mother, Lynda Cruz, dueling portraits emerge of her as struggling single parent overwhelmed by – even fearful of – her unruly children, and a mother in denial who refused essential mental health resources for herself and her sons.
  • The jury sees numerous images of Cruz as an infant and toddler through class pictures and family photos.

DAY 15 – 8/22/22

DAY 12 – 8/4/22

DAY 11 – 8/3/22

DAY 10 – 8/2/22

  • The jury heard more heart-wrenching testimony from the victims’ families about the lasting impact of their deaths.
  • After the testimony of the Hoyer family, Judge Scherer called a recess amid a groundswell of tears from just about everyone in the courtroom: jurors, lead prosecutor Michael Satz, defense counsel, reporters, and members of the gallery.
  • The devastating accounts left members of the defense team in tears — ironic seeing as they filed motions to prevent similar reactions from the witnesses and gallery members.
  • A firearm and toolmark examiner described the modifications Cruz made to his AR-15 style rifle and how they gave him a more stable shot. He also described the mix of ammunition Cruz chose, which fired at a velocity of 3,000-4,000 ft/second
  • Grieving father Ilan Alhadeff lashed out in anger as he described no longer being able to hear his daughter’s infectious laugh except in TikTok videos.
  • Annika Dworet, mother of shooting victim Nicholas and survivor Alex, said she will always struggle to answer the question of how many children she has.
  • While lamenting all the things he’ll never get to do with his son, Thomas Hoyer said he learned from a son’s friend that he played basketball with an autistic child in the neighborhood, and he wishes he could ask him about that.
  • Fred Guttenberg said the death of his daughter Jaime had strained his relationship with his son, who made it out of the school alive. Jesse is angry at his father for telling him to run away from the gunshots and now has survivor’s guilt, wishing he’d died that day instead of his sister.
  • Jennifer Guttenberg said it’s hard living in Parkland because no one knows what to say or how to treat them.
  • Charlotte Kaplan, mother of Meadow Pollack, described herself as a broken woman who struggles to hold down a job, focus on simple tasks, or raise her two sons.
  • In a statement read on their behalf, Martin Duque’s family said he came from a small town in Mexico. He dreamed of being a U.S. Navy SEAL and buying a home for his family.
  • In a statement read on their behalf, Carmen Schentrup’s family described her as the child any parent would want, who promised to take care of her parents when they were older and never had to be reminded to do her chores or homework.
  • WATCH: Parkland School Massacre Penalty Phase: Day 10

DAY 9 – 8/1/22

  • Family members of three victims – Joaquin Oliver, Alaina Petty, Scott Beigel — shared cherished memories of their loved ones and the anguish of their loss.
  • Judge Scherer told the jury that they should not consider the statements as evidence of aggravating factors.
  • The jury saw three short cell phone videos Cruz recorded of himself talking about his imminent plan to carry out a “massacre” at his former school that would make him famous.
  • BSO Det. Ronald Faircloth read aloud two text message conversations that Cruz had on the day of the shooting — one with a love interest and the other with a friend. Both conversations ended as Cruz arrived at the school. Cruz expressed his unrequited love to his crush, telling her “I love you,” and asked his friend to get him a date that night on Valentine’s Day. When his friend confirmed the date moments before the massacre, Cruz told him it was too late.
  • Faircloth read aloud details of Cruz’s online searches on his smartphone, which included multiple queries on YouTube for the song “Pumped Up Kicks” and instructive videos on using AR-15 style firearms.
  • The defense began drawing out details of Cruz’s emotional and behavioral issues – including his “low-end” autism — through the testimony of a JROTC instructor who confirmed that Cruz did not have permission to be on school property that day.
  • The jury heard details from the last three of the 17 autopsies performed in the case, including the grisly head injuries Joaquin Oliver suffered at close range.







  • Cruz was in the program for two years; witness instructed him in his first year in the program (2015), and taught him marksmanship
  • Cruz did not have permission to be on the campus on 2/14/18
  • On cross, witness agrees Cruz had a number of behavioral and emotional issues, disabilities, and was considered “low-grade” autistic. He only attended one class at MSD and the rest at another school where a teacher recommended against him taking JROTC.


  • Examined Cruz’s ZTE smartphone for evidence
  • 3 cell phone videos that Cruz recorded of himself talking played for jury and the gallery.
  • Two were recorded on 2/11/18 — Today is the day that it all begins, the day my massacre shall begin… All the kids will live in fear and hide… with the power of my AR you will all know who I am… My name is Nik and Im gonna be the next school shooter of 2018… my goal is 20 people…  I think I can get it done… location is Stoneman Douglas in Parkland, FL… and when you see me on the news you’ll know who I am…
  • Witness reads aloud two text message conversations Cruz had with two different people as he rode in an Uber to the school. In his conversation with a contacted saved as “LOVE OF YOUR LIFE,” he says, “I love you” and “you’re the greatest person I ever met” as if bidding her goodbye.
  • Witness describes numerous website searches in 2018 suggesting extensive preparation for shooting, including “how long does it take for a cop to show up at a school shooting” … “ar 15 close quarters basic gunfighting drills”… “body cam footage of cop shooting armed student on campus.”
  • INTERESTING MOMENT: Defense objects after the witness recited the chorus of “Pumped Up Kicks” – the song about school shootings – which was the subject of numerous Google and YouTube searches on Cruz’s phone.


  • Now an associate medical examiner with Palm Beach County; in 2018, worked for Broward County
  • Luke Hoyer –  Cause of death: Gunshot wounds to neck and torso. Gunshots to neck “obliterated” two major vessels, filling Hoyer’s chest with 1.5 liters of blood. Bullet path consistent with Hoyer being on the ground or falling to the ground.
  • Aaron Feis – Cause of death: Gunshot wounds of the torso. One gunshot fractured a rib and destroyed 2/3 lobes on lung, expelling more than half a liter of blood in the chest.
  • Joaquin Oliver – Cause of death: Multiple gunshot wounds, including one that pierced his hand and continued into his left temple, exploding inside his skull with force similar to a “cherry bomb,” causing “devastating obliteration and destruction of his skull and brain.” His head was kept together by just his scalp and forehead.

DAY 8 – 7/27/22

  • The jury heard about numerous internet searches and comments that Cruz posted on YouTube in the months before the massacre that foreshadowed his intent to commit a mass shooting.
  • The defense pointed out that he posted his comments on public forums, and one of the more bizarre comments was posted the day before his mother died.
  • In her first ruling for the defense, Judge Scherer makes the state redact some of the online comments.
  • The jury saw video (without audio) of Cruz fighting with a deputy — reaching for his Taser while they tussled on the ground — inside Broward County’s main jail. Cruz pleaded guilty to aggravated battery for the fight and prosecutors are using it as an aggravating factor of a violent crime conviction.
  • Judge Elizabeth Scherer prevented the defense from trying to impeach Sgt. Raymond Beltran with questions about a DUI-related conviction and the lack of video of before the fight.
  • Medical examiner detailed the gunshot injuries of Cara Loughran.
  • WATCH: Parkland School Massacre Penalty Phase: Day 8


  • The day before the shooting, Cruz searched Google for “How long does it take for a cop to show up at school shooting”
  • Other Google searches in February 2018 (two weeks before shooting) included “Marjory Stoneman Douglas school hours” and “Stoneman Douglas school map”
  • He appeared to idolize Isla Vista shooter Elliott Rodgers, doing multiple searches for him and posting things like this: “On the night of my massacre you are not forgotten Elliot RIP”
  • Reads aloud scores of comments the defendant posted on YouTube using multiple Gmail accounts in which he pledged to commit a mass shooting:
    • I have no problem shooting a girl in the chest
    • I’m going to kill all you f—ing people
    • When I turn 21 I am going to kill people
    • In 2020, you hear me on the news doing this
    • It makes me happy to see people die
  • Reads aloud list of Cruz’s searches on YouTube and Google compiled from browser history connected to multiple Gmail accounts:
    • “Pump [sic] up kicks” song about the Columbine shooting.
    • Numerous searches for other mass shootings and the shooters, including Columbine, Virginia Tech, Poly Tech, Elliot Rodgers, Las Vegas shooting.
    • Numerous searches for ammo and guns, including AR-15 and Smith & Wesson MP15 Sport II, the weapon he used in the shooting.
  • On cross, Masters agrees with lawyer Nawal Bashimam that Cruz used his real name and posted on public forums; made one of his posts the day before his mother died.


  • Performed autopsy on Cara Loughran
  • Fatal gunshot wound entered through the side of her chest and tore through her heart
  • Gives the most clear and concise explanation yet for what makes a high-velocity gunshot wound so devastating compared to gunshot wounds from low-capacity firearms.


  • Collected Cruz’s phone from Forsberg


  • Collected Cruz’s cell phone from first floor stairwell


  • Video of the brawl was shown to the jury and the gallery.
  • Beltran highlights portion of the video where Cruz goes for his Taser.
  • Beltran says he didn’t know if he pulled the trigger or Cruz did, but it deployed in the scuffle.
  • On cross, Beltran said Cruz was pacing around the pod for about 20 minutes before the fight broke out. He also said Cruz was under suicide watch. Beltran was assigned to administrative duties after the incident and has not watched Cruz since.
    • WATCH: Parkland School Massacre: Jail Guard Attacked by Cruz Testifies
  • WATCH: Parkland School Massacre: Victim’s Dad Talks to Court TV
  • READ: Jurors see Florida school shooter’s violent internet posts

DAY 7 – 7/26/22

  • The jury sees more gruesome autopsy photos related to the deaths of Scott Beigel, Alyssa Alhadeff, Gina Montalto, Max Schachter, Helena Ramsay, Jaime Guttenberg from high-velocity projectiles that exploded inside their bodies, causing internal and external injuries.
  • Jury hears from the gun dealer who sold Cruz the murder weapon one year before the massacre.
  • The defense interrupts DNA testimony by saying they will stipulate that Cruz’s DNA is on “every single item” used in the crime.
  • WATCH: Parkland School Massacre Penalty Phase: Day 7
  • READ: Florida school shooter’s AR-15 rifle shown to his jurors



  • As the witness goes through all the items she analyzed, the defense interrupts and says they’ll stipulate to the presence of Cruz’s DNA on “every single item” used in the crime.
  • Items include: swab from magazine clip found in vest; swab from third floor hallway; swab from teacher’s lounge; swab from another mag in vest; swab from rifle; swab from vest; swab from another magazine in the vest; swab from knife handle; swab from black ski mask; swab from gray backpack.


  • Alex Schachter
    • Shot twice in the chest while was standing up
    • Fatal gunshot wound entered through his chest and transected (cut through) his spinal cord; injured his lung, filling his chest with blood.
  • Alyssa Alhadeff
    • The fatal gunshot wound to her chest injured her lung, heart and vessels. Because it happened while she was lying on the ground, it caused “shored exits,” meaning it could not exit her body so it caused three defects on her back.
    • She was also shot in the abdomen and thigh; 2 graze wounds to the head; a defensive wound on her hand.
  • Scott Beigel


  • Sold Cruz the Smith and Wesson rifle used in the shooting in February 2017
  • When asked what he would do with the weapon, Cruz said, “I go shooting with my friends on the weekends, I just want my own stuff.”
  • Cruz’s form 4473 is shown as a trial exhibit
  • Witness describes modifications made to gun after the sale: Sight, sling, bipod, vert grip
  • Morrison and the salesclerk spoke to Cruz when he filled out application on 2/11/17 and again when he picked up the gun on 2/18/17: “If anyone’s uncomfortable, the sale would not happen.”
  • On cross, the defense points out that it was legal to buy a gun in 2018 at 18 (Cruz was 18 and four months) and now the age is 21 (because of changes to the law resulting from the shooting).
  • On cross, defense emphasizes that Morrison and another clerk conversed with Cruz and no red flags came up.

DAY 6 – 7/25/22


  • Performed autopsies on two victims
  • Christopher Hixon – Two gunshot wounds to upper and lower chest. The one to the lower chest was fatal.
  • Peter Wang – 12 gunshots wounds, including 4 to the head, which were fatal. “Snowstorm” effect of projectiles exploding in the head created “atypical” large exit wounds that were hard to define.


  • Performed autopsy on Nicholas Dworet
  • Fatal gunshot wound to chest: Passed through the right shoulder under the collarbone — lacerating arteries — to the upper right lung to the pericardium — lacerating the breathing tube in right lung and the aorta – then passed through the heart and the lung before lodging in the chest wall.
  • 2 graze wounds on abdomen and left thigh
  • Multiple “penetrating ballistic injury” — caused by fragments or shrapnel – on his body, including on his ankle


  • Identifies photos of items she collected from the school and shows the items to the jury
  • First floor stairwell where Cruz dropped his items after seeing Chris McKenna
    • Empty rifle bag
    • Backpack with red earpiece/headset used on shooting ranges to muffle sound
  • Third floor stairwell where Cruz dropped his vest with pockets for carrying magazines (that you put bullets in)
    • 5 magazines total – 30-round capacity and 40-round capacity; mixed brands of live rounds
    • ID for Roger Cruz of Nassau County Police [possibly NY]
    • Smith and Wesson loaded rifle with one round in the chamber
  • Identifies crime scene photos of victims Oliver, Loughren, Pollack, Wang, Beigel, Gutenberg, Feis
  • Two empty 40-round magazines collected, one from the teacher’s lounge, one next to Scott Beigel’s body
  • Identifies bullet holes in teacher’s lounge windows – On cross, agrees all that’s needed to open windows is to pull a handle


  • Cruz told the driver that he was going to “music class.” He also asked her if she lived in the area
  • He had with him what she thought at the time was a guitar case
  • On cross, defense points out he chose Uber pool (shared option), and elicits testimony from witness that Cruz appeared “anxious and nervous”


  • Identifies photos he took of second floor crime scene: spent casings, bullet holes in walls, the floor, on desks
  • Identifies photos of 7 projectiles that he collected from the roof


DAY 5 – 7/22/22


  • Identifies crime scene photos of victims in the classrooms and the hallway
  • Identifies physical exhibits of discarded rifle magazines; laptop with a bullet hole; cartridge casings
  • 70 fired cartridges found on first floor


  • Performed autopsies on four victims
  • Causes of death — Multiple gunshot wounds to each student. The high velocity projectiles exploded in their bodies (“blow up,” his word) and shattered bones, sending fragments caused gaping exit wounds.
  • Martin Duque — 8 gunshot wounds. One defensive wound to hand. Shots to head and torso were both fatal in and of themselves.
  • Alaina Petty – 4 gunshot wounds. Fatal shot to chest perforated her heart, lungs, rib. Shots to her leg and arm shattered the bones, creating additional fragments that
  • Carmen Schentrup — 5 gunshot wounds. Fatal shot to head. It shattered her skull and dislodged her brain.
  • Meadow Pollack – 6 or 7 gunshot wounds. High velocity graze wound to head fractured skull and caused injury to brain, hemorrhaging and contusions. GSW to torso fragmented into multiple fragments, perforating lungs, vertebrae, spinal cord.


  • Responded to school
  • Identifies photos of Joaquin Oliver, Jamie Guttenberg, Peter Wang on third floor



DAY 4 – 7/21/22

  • Over defense objections, the state introduced video showing Cruz’s path of travel after the massacre.
  • He started at a Subway inside a Walmart near the school, where he purchased an icee; then he went to McDonald’s, where he took a seat in the booth where John Wilford – the brother of one of his victims — was sitting and asked him for a ride; then, we saw video of his arrest in a nearby neighborhood, which was captured by a passerby.
  • The jury heard from another Benjamin Wikander, who was shot in the arm while hiding in classroom 1213 (Ronit Reoven’s AP psychology class)
  • Court ended early so the parties could discuss logistics of the jury’s visit to the 1200 building where the shootings occurred.

WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT THE JURY VISIT — After Judge Scherer allowed the jury visit to go forward over defense objections, the defense requested a handful of “proactive measures” in two motions (attached) to prevent the visit from having a prejudicial impact on Cruz. Among the highlights:

  • “The defense is concerned that this Court [the judge] is underestimating the emotional impact of being inside the 1200 building and will not be able to hide its emotions.”
  • The jurors should stay together and not speak to anyone
  • The jurors should wear protective gear and casual clothing, including close-toed shoes
  • A neutral party should lead them from the point where Cruz exited the Uber down the path he took
  • The defense wants the judge and the lawyers to tour the scene ahead of time to remove potentially prejudicial items


  • Shot in the arm
  • Wears a brace because of radial nerve damage


  • Video of encounter shown


  • Authenticates store surveillance video


  • Brother of shooting survivor Madeleine Wilford
  • Describes trying to call his sister
  • Went to nearby McDonald’s after shooting and waited for his mother to pick him up
  • Cruz came up to his booth and asked him for a ride
  • Cruz follows him outside
  • Video shows of their encounter


  • Came upon Cruz in a residential neighborhood right after turning off his squad car camera to save battery
  • Civilian video shown of arrest
  • Stills from arrest shown


  • Describes items he collected from Cruz upon his arrest
  • Items included NYPD hat and $353 in cash


DAY 3 – 7/20/22


  • Graduated MSD in 2018
  • Heard fire alarm go off and made way outside toward tennis courts, past fields, past west glades and turned around and saw Nikolas Cruz standing beside her (she did not yet know that he was the shooter)
  • She’d known Cruz since middle school, hadn’t seen him in years
  • They both said hi, he told her he planned to attend college in Florida
  • Cruz was wearing a maroon Jr. ROTC shirt from MSD High School at the time
  • Micotta stood to identify Cruz
  • At that point where she was scaling the fence, she turned around and Cruz wasn’t there anymore


  • West was playing chess with friends when the fire alarm went off, they exited
  • Suddenly, everyone stopped and heard gunshots, didn’t know what to do
  • Looked over, saw Kyle Laman, it lookd like his foot had been shot off
  • Saw Joaquin laying down, asked him if he could move, he said he got shot in knee
  • Ran downstairs, saw Coach Feis outside the west doorway


  • Class started off normal until fire alarm went off
  • Did normal procedures… suddenly, they were stationary. Had a bad feeling. Felt anxious and scared
  • Someone said the building was on fire, heard doors open on the other side. Everything went silent and people started screaming
  • Shots went off and people froze up
  • Hallway emptied fast
  • Saw a lot of bodies on the floor
  • Felt a strong paintball-like shot
  • Looked down and saw his ankle blown off to bits
  • Saw the shooter had stopped and darted to cover. Shooter aimed at him
  • Managed to run downstairs to football field
  • Skin graft used to repair his ankle


  • Fire alarm went off. Started gathering things to leave classroom, saw people running backward
  • Heard gunshots, ran toward stairwell in opposite direction
  • Felt something hit leg — later realized he’d been hit
  • Got outside, saw body of dead male
  • Heard gunshots again, seemed as if someone was shooting from the building — started running and went over fence


  • It was a normal Valentine’s Day, kids excited, balloons and candy being bandied about
  • He was grading tests when he heard the fire alarm go off
  • Followed normal procedure, started getting kids out
  • Saw kids coming back from stairwell. Started hearing gunshots and went to investigate
  • Saw a packed hallway, tried to calm kids down, get them back into classrooms
  • Once shooter was on his floor and everyone had ducked into rooms; he pushed some kids into an alcove
  • Stuck his head out quickly; bullet grazed face, then hip (didn’t find it till next day)
  • Held open stairwell door so kids could exit


  • Recalled hearing a scream and fire alarm going off
  • There was confusion, a lot of people in the hallway
  • Went to stairwell, saw gunman and started running
  • Got shot in the multiple times, sustained injuries to his back and both legs — 14 injuries total
  • Stood up to show his injuries


  • Fire alarm went off, hallway flooded with students
  • A teacher was telling everyone to stop running and calm down
  • Heard 7 shots
  • Kids shielded themselves with backpacks
  • Took cell phone video (which was played over defense objections)


  • Heard a popping sound
  • Fire alarm went off, told kids to leave the classroom and meet by fence outside where they’d typically met for fire drills
  • Hallway filled up quickly
  • Heard screams, then people started moving backward
  • Students started running into whatever classrooms were open
  • Saw shooter emerge from stairwell
  • According to her recollection: The shooter was splaying the rifle back and forth and shot after shot after shot. It never stopped
  • Felt a ping of heat rush against her arm


Survivor accounts continue. No cross exam of these witnesses, just as in other days. Defense objects to photos taken of the victims in the hospital and student’s cell phone video from inside class 1213.


  • Not injured in shooting
  • Took cell phone video that the jury viewed over defense objections


  • Passed out after sustaining multiple injuries to lung, abdomen, hand.


  • Shot in the knee
  • Tears up while recalling how she got upset in the classroom as police tended to her in the classroom instead of other victims


  • Carmen Schentrup died in her classroom and multiple students were wounded
  • Gives vivid descriptions and details of the scene inside her classroom – using a baby blanket that covered the K-cup machine as a tourniquet … using a denim jacket to cover the wounded… moans of students
  • SHOUTS as she describes shooting
  • Gets emotional describing Carmen’s body


  • Went with Ana Martins to the bathroom and spoke to Gina Montalto outside the classroom
  • Once inside the classroom, she saw Ana get up from her seat to let Luke and Martin back in, then the gunshots started and Ana backed off.


  • She was leading “personalization” class or study hall/free period
  • She thought the shooting was a drill because teachers had been told there would be a drill during active shooter training in January – even as glass fell at her feet and she thought to herself that this was too much.
  • She kept telling students to calm down, everything would be OK,
  • Three students left the classroom for different reasons and who ended up being shot in the hallway.
  • Nick Hoyer and Martin Duque had just returned from the media center and Gina Montalto was sitting outside the classroom in the door alcove.
  • Witness gets choked up identifying photos of victims. Again, photos are published to jury after she leaves the stand.


  • Describes in exacting detail the chain of events from the class discussion the moments the shots began until SWAT came in
  • Chokes up as she identifies pictures of deceased students, calling them “my Helena” and Nick, a “handsome boy”
  • Chokes up while saying “I kept thinking about the kids who should not be experiencing this at all.”
  • Claims they had no active shooter training


  • Room 1216.
  • Saw Alaina Petty and Alyssa Aldaheff being shot.
  • Sustained shrapnel injuries to legs.


  • During band, she went to the freshman building from the main building to use bathroom. Saw the shooter and ducked into an unlocked classroom.
  • She didn’t realize in the moment that she’d been shot in the leg – entered and in right leg, exited thru left. She’s had 4 surgeries.
  • Lengthy sidebar over the introduction of security video showing her in the school
  • Witness excused before the jury watches the video of her being shot – judge tells jury it’s so that she doesn’t have to see herself being shot

DAY 2 – 7/19/22

  • Nine students and two teachers shared firsthand accounts of the Parkland school shooting massacre, including some who were injured by gunfire, as prosecutors continued their effort to prove the existence of aggravating factors that they say merit the death penalty for Cruz.
  • The accounts centered on carnage wrought in classroom 1214, where Nick Dworet and Helena Ramsay died; and classroom 1216, where Cruz fatally shot Alex Schachter in his first pass by the classroom, then Alyssa Alhadeff and Alaina Petty in his second pass by the classroom.
  • Cruz pleaded guilty to attempted murder for shooting most of the students who testified Tuesday. Prosecutors will use those guilty pleas to argue one of the aggravators: the defendant was previously convicted of another capital felony or of a felony involving the use or threat of violence to the person.
  • Other pertinent aggravators arising from today’s testimony:
    • The defendant knowingly created a great risk of death to many persons.
    • The capital felony was committed while the defendant was engaged in the commission of a burglary.
    • The capital felony was committed to disrupt or hinder the lawful exercise of any governmental function or the enforcement of laws.
    • The capital felony was especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel.
    • The capital felony was a homicide and was committed in a cold, calculated, and premeditated manner without any pretense of moral or legal justification.
    • Over defense objections (cumulative and prejudicial), the jury watched a video timeline of Nikolas Cruz’s deadly rampage pieced together from different school security camera angles. Court TV was part of the media pool that viewed it after court ended and provided notes.
    • Christopher McKenna describes high-fiving victims Luke Hoyer and Martin Duque in the hallway before he bumped into Cruz in the stairwell, where Cruz told him he better leave because “things are about to get bad.” He also describes how Aaron Feis drove him to safety in a golf cart before returning to the building, where Cruz shot Feis as he tried to enter a side door.
    • Teacher Dara Hass tears up on the witness stand while identifying pictures of her dead students. She said it was difficult it was to follow police’s orders to leave behind her injured students in the classroom.
    • Student Samantha Fuentes (room 1214) describes the lasting impact of gunshot wounds and shrapnel injuries that she sustained.
    • Shooting survivors William Olson and Alex Dworet – both in classroom 1216 — describe suddenly realizing that they’d been shot, then noticing Alex Schacter dead on his desk.
    • Notably, Dworet does not mention his brother, Nick Dworet, who was killed in the classroom across the hallway.
    • Mitch and Annika Dworet – parents with the grim distinction of having two sons who were shot in the massacre – listen from the front row as their surviving son testifies.
    • The Dworets were among several sets of parents who escorted the student witnesses – all of whom are now college students – in and out of the courtroom and listened soberly from the front row to their child’s testimony.
    • The defense asks its first question on cross of teacher Michael Powell



  • Pieced together timeline video of Cruz’s movements during the rampage from school security cameras
  • Video played for jury
    • We see Christopher McKenna high-five Martin and Luke on his way to the stairwell
    • Cruz’s encounter with McKenna in the stairwell is shorter than one might think from all the discussion about it.
    • Next sequence: Cruz in the hallway, emerging through the dust from the background to the foreground. He zig-zags down the hallway from one classroom to another, taking aim at the doors (we don’t see the gunshots because the doors are recessed into an alcove)
    • Next sequence: Hallway shot. More dust fills the screen. Cruz takes aim at a classroom. Hixon appears in the foreground. Cruz takes aim and shoots him and keeps moving. Hixon falls to the ground. Cruz returns to Hixon and shoots him again without breaking a stride.
    • The next shot is the same sequence from another camera angle.
    • Next sequence: Stairwell shot. Cruz enters, takes aim at door to outside, presumably shooting Feis (we don’t see this).
    • Next sequence: Hallway shot. Cruz zigzags, firing shots.
    • Next few sequences: Cruz keeps his pace as he runs up stairwell.
    • Next sequence: Hallway shot. Dust fills frame. A person falls to the ground, then Cruz emerges from background. Students scatter to alcoves.
    • Next sequence: Hallway shot of teacher Ernie Rospierski herding a group of 9 students into an alcove, keeping watch over them in the alcove, then rushing them toward the stairwell. Next shot shows the same sequence from another angle.
    • Next sequence: Stairwell shot. Kids and Rospierski burst through the door. Students run downstairs. Rospierski lingers over Jamie Guttenberg’s body in the corner of the stairwell as if hiding and keeping guard from Cruz. Cruz peers into the window of the door
    • Next shot: Stairwell. Cruz drops his gear in a quick motion and runs downstairs.
    • Next 7 sequences: We see Cruz leave the building and run alongside the tennis courts completely alone, seemingly not in any great rush. Final shot shows a crowd in the distance. He runs toward them and blends into the crowd.



  • Explains that dust falling from ceiling (from gunshot percussion) obscured movement on the motion-activated cameras, which is why the recordings paused at various points.





  • Classroom 1216 with English teacher Dara Hass
  • Injured by gunfire in the side of his stomach and arm



  • Classroom 1214, Holocaust studies
  • Shot in the back


  • Classroom 1214, Holocaust studies



  • Classroom 1215 for free period/study hall
  • Ran to open the door for Luke Hoyer and Martin Duque but didn’t make it before they were shot


  • Let students into his classroom from the hallway to take cover
  • Defense asks him their first question of any witness: Was there a campus monitor on your floor? Yes, he says, but he can’t remember who it was

DAY 1 – 7/18/22

  • “Someone, help me” — Screams and wails of terrified and wounded students filled the courtroom as prosecutors played former MSD student Danielle Gilbert’s cell phone video from inside classroom 1213. The wails turned into sobs as students walked through the hallways past the bodies of dead schoolmates.
  • Deafening gunshots thundered through the courtroom as prosecutors played former MSD student Dylan Kraemer’s Snapchat video showing students hiding under desks in classroom 1214.
  • An audience member called out “shut it off” in response to Kraemer’s video, prompting the defense to motion for a mistrial. Judge Scherer denied the motion.
  • Cruz lowered his head, staring at the table, while the victims’ families held each other and buried their face in their hands during the evidence presentation.
  • Before openings, the judge questioned a juror about accusations that the juror talked about her jury service and views on the death penalty in a doctor’s office. The juror denied the accusations and remains on the panel.
  • Cruz’s defense reserves its opening until the start of its case.
  • ASA Michael Satz delivers prosecution opening statement.


  • He starts and ends by reciting Cruz’s words in a cell phone video he made three days before the shooting: “Hello, my name is Nick. I’m gonna be the next school shooter of 2018. My goal is at least 20 ppl with a AR-15… It’s gonna be a big event and when you see me on the news you’ll know who I am… ah yeah, can’t wait.”
  • Describing Cruz’s actions as “cold, calculated, manipulative and deadly,” the prosecutor walks the jury through the rampage – step by step, floor by floor, classroom by classroom, victim by victim — in excruciating detail
  • Family members in the gallery gasp, wince, bury their heads in their hands, and leave the courtroom as Satz describes how Cruz returned to shoot multiple victims multiple times
  • The “percussion” of the gunshots was so heavy it shook loose dust from ceiling tiles, creating the impression of smoke
  • He uses vivid, active verbs to describe the movements of each victim: crawling on the floor; huddling in alcoves; pushing students into the classroom
  • He names each victim, gives their age, says how many times each person was shot
  • He explains some of the aggravators:
    • During a burglary – The act of going into the school to commit the offense of murder
    • To disrupt a government function – The act of schooling
    • Victims were appointed govt officials – Refers to Beagle (teacher), Hixon (athletic director), Feis (coach)



  • Classroom 1213
  • “We were like sitting ducks,” she says as she describes hiding under her teacher’s desk a few feet from the body of Carmen Schentrup.
  • Recorded cell phone video from inside the classroom
  • Sobs as she leaves the witness stand, falling into her father’s arms
  • Julia’s pool notes on the videos:
    • 7 clips total were shown during her testimony
    • First clip starts with a shot of the classroom, white flashes from the alarm light up the room
    • Gunshots blast ring out from far away, then closer as if right outside.
    • As students huddle underneath the teacher’s desk, the shot is angled toward the ceiling
    • Wails are heard from someone not visible: “Someone help me”
    • White dust in the air as several students continue to cling to each other.
    • The pleas of someone crying “help me” are loud, unclear to pooler if it’s coming from inside or outside the classroom. The hiding students whisper quietly to each other as they try to stay still, even stifling coughs that seem to be prompted from the dust in the air.
    • In another clip, the shot is pointed at the empty classroom; everyone appears to be crammed under and around at the teachers’ desk
    • In another shot, the shot shows the back of a student’s shirt. Student’s head is bowed.
    • Shot moves to another phone in the middle of a phone call with “Mom”
    • Shot shows students’ peering around the corner of the classroom
    • A female in a pink shirt who appears to be in charge — maybe a young teacher — carefully moves around the classroom
    • Shot shows backpacks and a lone water bottle on the floor where the classroom seats are, abandoned.
    • After a few minutes of quiet, the silence is broken with a loud whisper of someone saying “they’re coming, we’re OK”
    • At the end of the clip, a student asks the person filming, “Oh my God, one says, are you recording this?” speaking generally about the entire altercation.
    • Police enter the room and ask:  “Were you shot? Is anyone injured.” Two students are picked up by officers and carried out. The camera pans to a female body lying in a pool of blood. Her torso and legs are visible, motionless. This body was just feet from the hiding students who had to remain silent in fear.
    • Police escort all of the students out of the classroom. The camera continues to film as the person filming runs down the school hallway with others. The camera captures bodies, at least two, lying on the floor of the hallway, presumably deceased. The fleeing students start to scream and cry, letting out the emotion they’d been holding in while hiding.
    • Armed officers point rifles in the opposite direction down the hall as the students exit.
  • No cross



  • Describes location of surveillance system
  • Identifies exterior photos of MSD
  • No cross


  • Removed surveillance system server and gave it to FBI
  • No cross


  • Took custody of video server from school

STATE WITNESS 7 – GASTON NIEVES – Digital forensic examiner, FBI



Court TV field producer Emanuella Grinberg contributed to this report.