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On February 14, 2018, Nikolas Cruz opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School located in Parkland Florida. He murdered seventeen people and injured another seventeen. Florida is a death penalty state but there are some conflicts that raise concern about this specific case. Many feel Cruz deserves the death penalty, but others believe his mental disorders should excuse him because he does not know any better. Although there are suspicions about Nikolas Cruz’s mental state, he should be given the death penalty.
Nikolas Cruz’s childhood was harsh, which persuades people that he should not get the death penalty. In the article “School Shooter Nikolas Cruz: A Lost and Lonely Killer” provides a glimpse of Cruz’s childhood. Nikolas Cruz was born on September 24, 1998. He was adopted by Lynda and Roger Cruz before his brother was adopted a year later by the Cruz’s as well. Both boys were raised Catholic and were very close with their father. When Nikolas was five years old, Roger Cruz passed away from a heart attack.
Nikolas was difficult as a child and was diagnosed with several disorders and conditions. These include: depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, emotional behavioral disability and autism. He is known to be impulsive and have anger issues (Wallman). This shows that he is high functioning, even with all his disorders. He knows right from wrong. He caused trouble throughout his early school years. His peers bullied him along with his brother. His brother, Zachary Cruz, confessed to bullying Nikolas when they were children and says he regrets it.
Cruz was enrolled in a school that was specifically for children with issues. When he became old enough for high school, he begged his mother to go to a “normal school”.
That school happened to be Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. In 2017, Lynda passed away. His peers realized he was having a very hard time with his mother passing away. After his mother died he moved in with a former neighbor. He was soon kicked out for being too aggressive and for bringing guns around them. Cruz got expelled from MSDHS for harassing students (Wallman). Wallman shows that Cruz was bullied, but also bullied others. This being said, Cruz’s harsh childhood filled with depression, bullying, and death, should be taken into consideration but should not influence the decision of him being put on death row because many children have similar or even harsher childhoods than him, and they know not to shoot up a school.
Often in the United States the death penalty is applied to black defendants and not white defendants. Cruz should not escape this punishment just because of his race. Race plays a huge role in the United States judicial system. With Nikolas Cruz being white, many excuses come up that would not work if an African American or Palestinian used them. Cruz has shown many red flags since he was a young age. During his first month at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, Cruz posted something on Instagram that he planned to shoot up the school. Deputies were informed, but did not act upon it. There is no doubt that if a minority posted something like Cruz, that they would be treated different. According to the “Death Penalty Information Center”, “ Since 1976, there have been 293 black defendants executed for killing a white victim, while 31 white defendants have been executed for killing a black victim.” (34) This shows that there is a divide in fairness within the judicial branch, due to racial problems. This statistic should open the eyes of readers. It is common for a black defendant to get the death penalty for killing one white victim, so why shouldn’t Nikolas Cruz get the death penalty for killing seventeen victims and injuring seventeen more? Because he’s white? Even though race should not play a role in defendants cases, it always will.
The death penalty was made for cases like Cruz’s. In the instance of the death penalty, the defendants life is taken for the victims lives. Defendants get executed for murdering one victim so Cruz should get executed for killing seventeen and injuring another seventeen. “The Case For Life For Nikolas Cruz” written by Sun Sentinel Editorial Board quotes State Attorney Mike Satz. Satz states,“This certainly is the type of case the death penalty was designed for. This was a highly calculated and premeditated murder of 17 people and the attempted murder of everyone in that school”(7). This shows that the prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Cruz because of his premeditated actions. The Washington Post released an article with footage recorded on Cruz’s phone called “Parkland Suspect Detailed Plans in Chilling Videos: ‘I’m going to be the next school shooter’”. In the video Cruz talks about his plans to be the next school shooter of 2018. He shows very little emotion when explaining his ideas but there is a sense of joy in his eyes. Cruz states, “My goal is at least 20 people with an AR-15 and a couple tracer rounds.” As the video goes on he calls his plans to shoot up Stoneman Douglas a “big event”. Cruz states, “When you see me on the news, you’ll all know who I am.” After smirking, Cruz lets out a soft yell saying “You’re all going to die”. He follows that statement with gunshot noises…Phew Phew Phew. He claims he can’t wait (Berman). Cruz’s videos allow viewers to see what kind of person he is; cruel, bitter, and compulsive. Cruz is very aware of what his actions will cause in the future. He is capable of planning a massacre and knows there will be deaths, fame, and consequences. Cruz’s actions must result in the death penalty due to how many people were affected and how cruel the crime he committed is.
Defendants think Cruz should not get the death penalty because he has mental issues. “Why Nikolas Cruz’s Death Penalty Trial Would Be Complicated”, an article on CNN written by Faith Karimi and Rosa Flores, states,“During death penalty trials, the defense focuses on proving mitigating circumstances to convince a jury not to impose the death penalty, Hornsby said. Such evidence can include diminished IQ and mental health issues, among others”(16).
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