FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Jurors in the penalty trial of Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz viewed graphic video Tuesday of him murdering 17 people as he stalked through Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School four years ago.
The video was not shown to the gallery, where parents of many of the victims sat. The 12 jurors and 10 alternates stared intently at their video screens. Many held hands to their faces as they viewed the 15-minute recording, which has no sound.
Some started squirming. One juror looked at the screen, looked up at Cruz with his eyes wide and then returned to the video.
The video was played over the objection of Cruz’s attorneys, who argued that any evidentiary value it has is outweighed by the emotions it would raise in the jurors. They argued that witness statements of what happened would be sufficient.
Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer dismissed the objection, saying a video that accurately reflects Cruz’s crimes does not unfairly prejudice his case.
The jurors heard testimony from Christopher McKenna, who was a freshman at the time of the shooting, Feb. 14, 2018. He had left his English class to go to the bathroom and exchanged greetings with two students as they crossed paths. Then he entered a stairwell and encountered Cruz assembling his AR-15 semiautomatic rifle.
“He said get out of here. Things are about to get bad,” McKenna recalled.
McKenna sprinted out to the parking lot and alerted Aaron Feis, an assistant football coach who doubled as a security guard. Feis drove McKenna in his golf cart to an adjacent building for safety, and then went to the three-story building McKenna fled from.
By then, the sounds of gunfire were already ringing out across the campus. Feis went in, and would join the students McKenna had greeted in the hallway among Cruz’s victims.
Cruz pleaded guilty in October to 17 counts of first-degree murder, and 17 more counts of attempted murder for those he wounded. The jury must decide if he should be sentenced to death or life without parole for the nation’s deadliest mass shooting to go before a jury.