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Jury selection begins for man facing death for Florida mass school shooting

JURY selection began in the penalty phase of the trial of the man who killed 17 students and staff at a Florida high school on Valentine’s Day in 2018, one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S history.

Nikolas Cruz pleaded guilty in November to the premeditated murder of 14 students and three members of the staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, about 30 miles north of Fort Lauderdale. A jury will now determine whether the judge should sentence him to life in prison or the death penalty.

Broward County Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer, who is presiding over the proceedings, said on Monday that jury selection should take until about May 31, according to local media. The penalty phase could last several months, legal experts have said.

Cruz was a 19-year-old expelled student with a history of mental health and behavioral issues at the time of the killings, prosecutors said last year.

Under Florida law, a jury must be unanimous in its decision to recommend that a judge sentence Cruz to be executed. If any of the 12 jurors objects, Cruz will be sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Among the mitigating factors the defense will ask the jury to consider are Cruz’s brain damage from his mother’s drug and alcohol abuse during pregnancy, his long history of mental-health disorders, and allegations he was sexually abused and bullied.

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Some of the teenagers who survived Cruz’s deadly rampage formed “March for Our Lives,” an organization that called for gun control legislation such as a ban on assault-style rifles.

In March 2018, the group held a nationally televised march in Washington that sparked hundreds of similar rallies worldwide. Cruz was 18 when he legally purchased from a licensed gun dealer the AR-15-style rifle used in the shooting.

By The African Mirror