Victims’ families can address Parkland school shooter directly before sentencing this week

The families of the 17 victims killed in the 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Fla., will be able to address the gunman directly this week before he’s officially sentenced to life behind bars.

The victims’ families were prohibited from speaking to or about shooter Nikolas Cruz during their testimonies throughout the trial, which ended this month with a divided jury. Their testimonies instead had to focus on the victims themselves or about how the murders affected the families.

Tuesday kicks off two more days of hearings before Cruz is sentenced, during which the families can speak to the shooter. The 17 people wounded in the massacre will be given the same opportunity.

“We are looking forward to speaking without the guardrails that were imposed upon us,” said Tony Montalto, father of a 14-year-old victim, Gina.

Cruz, a former student at Stoneman Douglas High, opened fire at the Parkland school on Feb. 14, 2018, killing 14 students and three employees.

Cruz, who pleaded guilty to the murders, would have faced the death penalty had the 12-person jury unanimously agreed.

He instead gets life in prison without parole after three jurors voted against it, citing a belief that Cruz is mentally ill.

The decision at the end of the three-month trial was condemned by many of the victims’ families.

“We are beyond disappointed with the outcome,” Lori Alhadeff, mother of 14-year-old victim Alyssa, said earlier this month. “This should have been the death penalty, 100%. ... I sent my daughter to school, and she was shot eight times. ... I cannot understand. I just don’t understand.”

Cruz is not expected to speak during this week’s proceedings. He will serve at a maximum-security prison in a 9-by-12-foot cell under protective management, and may not be put into general population for years.

With News Wire Services