NewsParkland Shooting


Penalty phase for Nikolas Cruz could take weeks, even months

School shooter faces death penalty for 2018 massacre
Nikolas Cruz in court before pleading guilty, Oct. 20, 2021
Posted at 4:50 PM, Oct 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-21 18:35:00-04

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Starting in early January, the jury selection process will begin to find jurors who will either recommend life in prison or the death penalty for the man who carried out the Parkland school shooting in 2018.

After an emotional hearing Wednesday in one of the most high-profile cases across the country, the families of the 17 Parkland school shooting victims are now preparing for what will be a long and difficult penalty phase in the case.

"Seventeen people died," parent Lori Alhadeff said. "Seventeen people were shot and it's ultimately that his life needs to be taken."

For many parents, the decision is clear.

"Life in prison is a life," parent Gena Hoyer said. "He deserves nothing more than the death penalty."

But finding an impartial jury in Broward County to unanimously agree on a death sentence will prove to be a challenge.

RELATED: Archbishop urges against death penalty

"It's OK if you heard about it. Most people have. The question is have you formed an opinion about whether or not he should be executed or not," Phil Reizenstein, who has handled death penalty defense cases for more than 25 years, said.

Reizenstein said in the case of Cruz, the penalty phase will be lengthy.

"If they take two or three days per victim, you're going into now a couple months," Reizenstein said.

Now both the defense and prosecutors have two months to finish up motions and depositions. Jury selection is slated to begin Jan. 4.

"The jury does not get the final say," Reizenstein said. "The judge gets the final say. Jurors make a recommendation."