“By telling you Nik’s story, by telling you the chapters of his life, we’ll offer you one thing to dwell for,” public defender Melisa McNeill stated in a Florida courtroom Monday. “That is referred to as mitigation. Mitigation is no matter motive you assume the dying penalty shouldn’t be an applicable penalty on this case.”
Specifically, McNeill highlighted her organic mom’s drug and alcohol abuse throughout her being pregnant, saying that Cruz confirmed indicators from an early age of fetal alcohol spectrum dysfunction and delinquent character dysfunction.
“As a result of Nikolas was bombarded by all of that stuff, he was poisoned within the womb. Due to that, his mind was irretrievably damaged by means of no fault of his personal,” McNeill stated.
The protection additionally referred to as its first two witnesses, a girl who testified that Cruz’s organic mom used medication and alcohol throughout her being pregnant and Cruz’s sister, who described life with a “horrible mom.”
If the jurors advocate that Cruz be sentenced to dying, they have to be unanimous.
geography instructor Scott Beigel, 35; wrestling coach Chris Hixon, 49; and assistant soccer coach Aaron Feis, 37, have been additionally killed, every whereas operating towards hazard or making an attempt to assist college students to security.
In opening statements Monday, McNeill laid out Cruz’s troublesome household life, together with his organic mom’s historical past of habit and the deaths of his adoptive mother and father, Lynda and Roger Cruz.
McNeill referred to as Cruz a “broken and wounded” particular person and stated attorneys plan to indicate the courtroom disturbing issues he stated and wrote, his obsessions with weapons and demons and even his “manifesto” about faculty shootings.
“His mind is damaged,” he stated. “He’s a broken human being. And that is why these items occur.”
McNeill additionally uncovered Cruz’s interactions with the general public schooling system, which proved unable to deal with his issues.
Cruz had developmental delays early in her childhood, together with her problem speaking with others. She bit others, lashed out emotionally and had mental issues, McNeill stated.
Cruz first obtained particular schooling companies at age 6, struggling at school socially and academically all through her quick life.
He developed a fascination with firearms, and after bringing a gun to high school, he was banned from sporting a backpack and escorted from class to class, McNeill stated. Nonetheless, in October 2016, Cruz and his adoptive mom went to a gun retailer in South Florida and acquired a rifle.
He attended Stoneman Douglas Excessive Faculty reasonably than a extra specialised particular schooling faculty, and among the faculty’s employees raised considerations with authorities about his behaviour.
In February 2017, at 18 and never on observe to graduate, Cruz was informed to drop out of college and actually ran off campus, McNeill stated. A college monitor noticed the scene and stated, “That child goes to return again and shoot this faculty,” in accordance with McNeill.
In November 2017, his mom Lynda Cruz died, uprooting any stability in his life. On the time of the capturing, police had visited her dwelling greater than 40 occasions, McNeill stated.
“We’ll let you know the life story of Nikolas in order that we may give you causes to vote for all times. That’s what I’m going to ask you to do,” he stated.
The primary two witnesses for the protection testified that Brenda Woodard, Cruz’s organic mom, used medication and drank alcohol whereas pregnant with Cruz.
Carolyn Deakins, a recovering addict who used medication, drank and labored as a prostitute with Woodard within the Nineteen Nineties, testified that Woodard confirmed little interest in the unborn child and used all his assets to purchase medication and alcohol.
Danielle Woodard, Cruz’s sister, equally testified that her mom abused medication and alcohol throughout her childhood, making a hostile atmosphere for the kids.
“She had an habit. She at all times put that first, earlier than me, or him, or Zach (Cruz), or anybody,” he stated.
“She launched me to a life that no youngster ought to find out about,” he added. “She had no respect for my life or his.”
Brenda Woodard, who died final yr, gave Cruz up for adoption when he was born in 1998. Danielle Woodard testified that she held Cruz when he was a child, however has not been in the identical room with him once more till Monday in courtroom.
The protection case could embody the testimony of Cruz’s brothers. Final week, Choose Elizabeth Scherer granted the state’s movement to compel Zachary Cruz, the gunman’s brother, and Richard Moore, with whom Zachary presently lives in Virginia, to testify. The courtroom ordered Zachary Cruz and Richard Moore to look on September 6 to testify to “reply any and all questions raised by the state.”
CNN’s Dakin Andone contributed to this report.
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