FL v. CRUZ: Parkland Shooter Penalty Phase

Posted at 12:59 AM, July 18, 2022 and last updated 11:40 AM, August 5, 2022

By Katie McLaughlin

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (Court TV) — Opening statements in the penalty phase for Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz began Monday, July 18. A seven-man, five-woman jury was selected in June.

 

Last October, Cruz pleaded guilty to murdering 17 people and wounding 17 others in the 2018 high school massacre in Broward County, Florida. Now, that jury is tasked with recommending whether Nikolas Cruz should be sentenced to life in prison or receive the death penalty.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz is shown at the defense table during jury selection in the penalty phase of his trial at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale on Tuesday, June 28, 2022. Cruz previously plead guilty to all 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the 2018 shootings. (Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel via AP, Pool)

It’s been over four years since Cruz, AR-15 rifle in hand, opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14, 2018. The Valentine’s Day tragedy remains one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history.

Emotions are expected to be high, as families of the 17 murder victims prepare to deliver impact statements, along with the 17 attempted murder victims who survived their injuries.

Last Fall, Cruz — through his attorneys — offered to plead guilty to all charges in exchange for a life sentence. The prosecution, however, rejected that offer.

The State will push for Cruz, who is now 23, to be put to death for his crimes, while the defense team is expected to fight for their client’s life.

WHAT TO EXPECT:

Typically, the same jury hearing the guilt phase would also hear the penalty phase. Because there was no guilt phase, a fresh jury was empowered to decide the solitary issue of whether Cruz should receive life in prison (no parole for murder in Florida) or an execution by lethal injection.

The penalty phase proceeds much like a regular trial. The state will call witnesses and present evidence in support of statutory aggravating factors that prosecutors claim merit the death penalty. The defense will present mitigating factors in support to make the case for life in prison. The prosecution’s case in front of the jury, expected to last three weeks, will re-create the horrific scene on several fronts. Survivors and relatives of the slain will deliver victim impact statements; video reenactments and renderings will bring jurors through the halls of the school Cruz rampaged; and a contested jury view will bring the panel in-person to the scene where Marjory Stoneman Douglas High’s doors have remained closed since the fateful day.

DAILY TRIAL HIGHLIGHTS

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.

#71 – MICHAEL SCHULMAN – FATHER OF SCOTT BEIGEL

#70 – LINDA BEIGEL SCHULMAN – MOTHER OF SCOTT BEIGEL

#68 and #69 – KELLY PETTY AND MEGHAN PETTY (TOOK THE STAND TOGETHER) – MOTHER AND SISTER OF ALAINA PETTY

#67 – VICTORIA GONZALEZ – GIRLFRIEND OF JOAQUIN OLIVER

#65 and #66 – PATRICIA OLIVER AND ANDREA GHERSI (TOOK THE STAND TOGETHER) – MOTHER AND SISTER OF JOAQUIN OLIVER

#64 – JOHN VINCENT NAVARRA – RETIRED MSD TEACHER AND SERGEANT WHO TAUGHT JUNIOR ROTC (JUNIOR RESERVE OFFICER TRAINING CORPS)

  • 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.

#63 – DET. RONALD FAIRCLOTH – BROWARD SHERIFF’S OFFICE

  • 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.

#62 – DR. TERRILL TOPS – FORENSIC PATHOLOGIST

  • 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

#64 – DET. NICHOLAS MASTERS –BCSO INTERNET CRIMES UNIT

  • 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.

#63 – DR. CRAIG MALLAK –CHIEF MEDICAL EXAMINER, BROWARD COUNTY

  • 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.

#62 – DET. VALERIAN PEREZ – BCSO

  • Collected Cruz’s phone from Forsberg

#61 – KEVIN FORSBERG – DEPUTY SHERIFF, BSO, HOMICIDE UNIT

  • Collected Cruz’s cell phone from first floor stairwell

#60 – SGT. RAYMOND BELTRAN – THE JAIL DEPUTY CRUZ PLEADED GUILTY TO FIGHTING WITH

  • 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

#59 – DR. MARLON OSBOURNE – ASSOCIATE MEDICAL EXAMINER, BROWARD COUNTY, IN 2018; NOW WITH PALM BEACH COUNTY

#58 – REBECCA SANTIAGO – BCSO CRIME LAB DNA UNIT

  • 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.

#57 – DR. REBECCA MACDOUGALL – BROWARD ASSOCIATE MEDICAL EXAMINER IN 2018; NOW, BROWARD’S CHIEF MEDICAL EXAMINER 

  • 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

#56 – MICHAEL MORRISON – LICENSED FIREARMS DEALER 

  • 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

#55 – DR. WENDOLYN SNEED – CHIEF MEDICAL EXAMINER, PALM BEACH COUNTY — IN 2018, ASSOCIATED MEDICAL EXAMINER, BROWARD COUNTY

  • 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.

#54 – DR. STEPHEN ROBINSON – DEPUTY CHIEF MEDICAL EXAMINER, BROWARD COUNTY 

  • 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

#53 – SGT. GLORIA CRESPO – BCSO CRIME SCENE DETECTIVE IN 2018

  • 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

#52 – LAURA ZECCHINI – UBER DRIVER WHO PICKED UP CRUZ FROM HOME AND DROPPED HIM OFF AT SCHOOL

  • 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”

#51 – DEP. MIGUEL SUAREZ – BROWARD COUNTY SHERIFF CRIME SCENE UNIT

  • 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

#50 – JUSTIN COLTON – SHOOTING SURVIVOR, LAST OF THE 17 ATTEMPTED MURDER VICTIMS TO TESTIFY

DAY 5 – 7/22/22

#49 – DANNY KRYSTYAN – BCSO CRIME SCENE DETECTIVE

  • 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

#48 – IOURI BOIKO – ASSOCIATE MEDICAL EXAMINER – BROWARD COUNTY

  • 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.

#47 – DET DAVID ALFIN – CORAL SPRINGS PD

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

#46 – DEP. RICHARD VANDEREEMS – BCSO

#45 – CAPT. NICHOLAS MAZZEI – CORAL SPRINGS PD

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

#38 — BENJAMIN WIKANDER – FORMER MSD STUDENT, ROOM 1213

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

#39 – CARLOS RUGELES — SUBWAY EMPLOYEE WHO SERVED CRUZ AN ICEE

  • Video of encounter shown

#40 – JOSE DE LA CRUZ – MCDONALD’S AREA SUPERVISOR

  • Authenticates store surveillance video

#41 JOHN WILFORD – FORMER MSD STUDENT

  • 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

#42 OFFICER MICHAEL LEONARD – COCONUT CREEK POLICE

  • 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

#43 – OFFICER KYLE GREENE – CORAL SPRINGS POLICE

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

#44 — CLINT WILLIAMS, BCSO

DAY 3 – 7/20/22

#37 – NICOLETTE MICOTTA — MSD STUDENT, BUILDING 9

  • 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

#36 – TYLER WEST — MSD STUDENT, THIRD FLOOR STUDY HALL, ROOM 1249

  • 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

#35 KYLE LAMAN — MSD STUDENT

  • 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

#34 – MARIAN KABACHENKO — MSD STUDENT, GEOGRAPHY CLASS (SPOKE THROUGH RUSSIAN INTERPRETER)

  • 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

#33 – ERNEST ROSPIERSKI – MSD TEACHER, GEOGRAPHY, AP HISTORY

  • 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

#32 – ANTHONY BORGES — MSD STUDENT

  • 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

​​#31 – VERONICA STEEL — MSD STUDENT, THIRD FLOOR, ROOM 1257

  • 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)

#30 – STACEY LIPPEL – MSD TEACHER, THIRD FLOOR

  • 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

LUNCH BREAK

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.

#29 – LOGAN MITCHELL — MSD STUDENT, ROOM 1213 WITH MS REOVEN

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

#28 – MADELEINE WILFORD — MSD STUDENT, ROOM 1213 WITH MS REOVEN

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

#27 – SAMANTHA MAYOR – MSD STUDENT, ROOM 1213 WITH MS REOVEN

  • 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

 #26 – RONIT REOVEN – MSD TEACHER, ROOM 1213

  • 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

#25 – SOFIA D’ELIA – FORMER MSD STUDENT, ROOM 1215

  • 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.

EMOTIONAL — #24 – JULETTA MATLOCK – MSD TEACHER, ROOM 1215

  • 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.

#23 – IVY SCHAMIS – FORMER MSD SOCIAL STUDIES TEACHER, ROOM 1214, HOLOCAUST STUDIES ELECTIVE

  • 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

#22 – GENESIS VALENTIN – FORMER MSD STUDENT

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

#21 — ASHLEY BAEZ – FORMER MSD STUDENT

  • 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

#8 – RON LOWTHER

BROWARD COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE, ELECTRONICS SURVEILLANCE TECHNICIAN

  • 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.

#9 – DANIEL JAMES BOOTH

SOFTWARE ENGINEER, AVIGILON, MAKER OF SURVEILLANCE CAMERA SYSTEMS

  • 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.

#10 – CHRISTOPHER MCKENNA – MSD FRESHMAN IN 2018

#11 – WILLIAM OLSON – MSD FRESHMAN IN 2018

#12 – ALEXANDER DWORET — MSD FRESHMAN IN 2018

#13 – KHESHAVA MANGAPURAM – MSD FRESHMAN IN 2018

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

#15 – ISABEL CHEQUER – MSD JUNIOR IN 2018

#16 – DANIELA MENESCAL – MSD JUNIOR IN 2018

  • Classroom 1214, Holocaust studies
  • Shot in the back

#17 – SAMANTHA GRADY – MSD JUNIOR IN 2018

  • Classroom 1214, Holocaust studies

#18 – SAMANTHA FUENTES – MSD JUNIOR IN 2018

#19 — ANA MARTINS – MSD FRESHMAN IN 2018

  • 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

#20 – MICHAEL POWELL – MSD TEACHER NOW AND IN 2018

  • 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.

STATE OPENING BY ASSISTANT STATE ATTORNEY MICHAEL SATZ

  • 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)

STATE WITNESS 1 – BRITTANY SINITCH – MSD TEACHER IN 2018; FORMER MSD STUDENT

STATE WITNESS 2 – DANIELLE GILBERT– MSD JUNIOR IN 2018

  • 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

STATE WITNESS 3 – DYLAN KRAEMER – MSD JUNIOR IN 2018

STATE WITNESS 4 – MAXIMO ROSARIO – FORMER MSD ASSISTANT PRINCIPAL

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

STATE WITNESS 5 – JAMES KESSLER – SYSTEMS ANALYST

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

STATE WITNESS 6 – CARLOS CASTELLO – RETIRED FBI SPECIAL AGENT

  • Took custody of video server from school
  • NO CROSS

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

 

 

Court TV field producer Emanuella Grinberg contributed to this report. 

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