FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz spoke to the families of the victims after pleading guilty Wednesday to the Valentine's Day 2018 massacre that killed 17 people.
After Broward County State Attorney Mike Satz read from a prepared statement detailing Cruz's actions on that fateful day at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Cruz was then given the opportunity to speak to the families on the record.
Below is the complete transcript of what he said in court:
"I am very sorry for what I did and I have to live with it every day and if I were to get a second chance, I would do everything in my power to try to help others, and I am doing this for you and I do not care if you do not believe me, and I love you and I know you don't believe me, but I have to live with this every day and it brings me nightmares and I can't live with myself sometimes, but I try to push through because I know that's what you guys would want me to do. I hate drugs and I believe this country would do better if everyone would stop smoking marijuana and doing all these drugs and causing racism and violence out in the streets. I'm sorry and I can't even watch TV anymore, and I'm trying my best (to) maintain my composure and I just want you to know that I'm really sorry and I hope you give me a chance to try to help others if -- I believe it's your decision -- to decide where I go, whether I live or die. Not the jury's. I believe it is your decision, and I'm sorry."
Although he was speaking to the victims' families, Cruz was facing Broward County Judge Elizabeth Scherer.
A prosecutor raised an issue with what Cruz "said at the very end that he believed you were in charge of the sentence and not the jury."
Scherer then said she wasn't sure who Cruz was addressing.
"I'm not sure if he was talking about -- I'm not exactly sure who he was talking about," Scherer said. "I don't know if he meant 'you' meaning me or 'you' meaning the victims."
The prosecutor then asked if Cruz could clarify "so that he does understand that in Florida, it is going to be a jury that determines his sentence as to counts 1-17 and not this court, so that we don't have an issue later on appeal … saying that he misunderstood."
Scherer then addressed Cruz.
"Mr. Cruz, I'm not sure who you were -- I'm not sure if you were talking to me or the victims' families when you said 'you,'" Scherer told him. "But you do understand the state of the law. I went over that with you."
"Yes, I do," Cruz answered.
"And so you know that it's neither me nor the victims' families that are going to be in charge of imposing the death penalty," Scherer continued. "I don't know if you meant -- the way I took it was you meant that they could ask the state to waive it."
Cruz nodded his head no.
"No, that's not what you meant," Scherer said. "Well, why don't you just tell me what you meant?"
Then Cruz pulled down his mask to answer her.
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"What I meant was that I believe they should have (the) right to choose, the victims themselves, on whether I should take life or death," Cruz said.
"So, in other words, you're urging the victims to encourage the state to waive it and sentence you to life," Scherer said.
"No," Cruz answered.
Then assistant public defender Melisa McNeill asked if she could clarify Cruz's comments.
"I think what Mr. Cruz was saying was that, ultimately in his heart, he believes it should be the victims' families that make the decision about life or death," she said. "We have, however, explained to Mr. Cruz that it will, in fact, be the jury that will make that decision after the presentation of evidence of aggravators and mitigators in phase two. This, I believe, is just his personal belief. It is in conflict with the law, but he understands the law."
Cruz shook his head in agreement while McNeill spoke.
"Mr. Cruz, is that correct?" Scherer asked him.
"Yes," he answered.
"So, if you were the legislature, you would leave it up to the victims to decide what penalty to impose, but you understand that's not the state of the law in Florida," Scherer said. "You understand it's going to be up to the jury."
"I understand that," Cruz replied.