Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz’s attorneys weep on the verdict

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The last thing Fred Guttenberg said to his 14-year-old daughter was that it was time for her to go, that she would be late. A few hours after the 2018 Rushing her two children to school on Valentine’s Day morning, a gunman opened fire in Parkland, Fla. High School – murder 17 peopleincluding Jaime Guttenberg.

During the sentencing of convicted shooter Nikolas Cruz on Tuesday, Guttenberg’s voice broke as he spoke of an imagined future for Jaime that never happened. But he wasn’t the only one shedding tears in court — members of Cruz’s defense team were also crying, videos show.

“I can’t remember if I ever actually told Jamie how much I loved her that day. I never knew I was going to miss the chance to do it again and again and again,” Guttenberg said, as quarterback Nawal Najet Bashiman rubbed her eyes. tissues. Two other members of Cruz’s team gave tearful testimony Tuesday.

Jurors have heard from teachers, survivors and families whose lives have been affected by the killings since the trial began on July 18. They saw videos of students running for their lives and listened to the screams and loud bangs that filled the air that day. All to decide whether Cruz, who pleaded guilty in October, should be sentenced to death or life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Prosecutors seeking the death penalty are basing their arguments on seven of them aggravating circumstances established in state law, including that Cruz’s acts were “particularly heinous, cruel or heinous.”

“These actions, the deaths of 14 children, an athletic director, a coach and a teacher, are where we are today – cold, calculating, manipulative and deadly,” Broward County District Attorney Michael Satz said in his opening statement.

In Florida, a unanimous jury recommendation is required for a death sentence. If sentenced to death, Cruz, now 23, would be one of the youngest people to receive the death penalty in decades.

Cruz’s defense attorneys, who offered a guilty plea in exchange for a life sentence, previously painted a troubled young man who showed remorse after struggling with mental health issues and a difficult childhood. However, on July 18 they have announced that they will not give an opening statement until it is time to present their case in the coming weeks.

Four years after the Parkland school shooting, parents of the victims are protesting and mourning

But so far, the trial has been filled with testimony from parents who have relayed heartbreak after heartbreak, which is stirring emotions even for those trying to save Cruz’s life.

It’s rare for lawyers to cry in a courtroom — especially “based on what the other side said,” said Keith Swisher, a professor of legal ethics at the University of Arizona’s James E. Rogers College of Law.

Because it’s an “incredibly stressful, heated and atypical case,” it’s unlikely to have adverse consequences for lawyers, he said. But that could prompt Cruz to seek a new adviser, he added.

“In a typical legal case, the client would likely feel betrayed and perhaps send the wrong signal to the judge or jury if the client’s own attorney cried foul over the other side’s evidence or arguments,” Swisher said. “If crying or other visible signals are likely to bias the jury against the defendant, the defendant may have cause to appeal.”

On Tuesday, Thomas and Gena Hoyer described how loss their 15-year-old son Lukas, affectionately called “Lucky the Bear” by his mother, irreparably destroyed “a family of five that had always struggled to fit into a world designed for even numbers,” said Thomas Hoyer. .

Luke was a “surprise baby”, born a few years after his older siblings. That February 14 in the morning he woke up to a bag of Skittles and a card from his mother. His father called “Good day” from downstairs on his way to work, unable to see Luke’s face. t”

Public defenders Bashiman and Tamara Curtis couldn’t hold back tears during Hoyers’ victim impact statement. Chief Public Defender Melisa McNeill wiped hers. Cruz sat expressionless.

Shortly after, referee Elizabeth Scherer called a 10-minute time-out.

As the litigants stood up and began tidying up the room, crumpled tissues could be seen on the table where the defense team was sitting – they will be used again.

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