A jury on Thursday recommended life in prison without parole for Nikolas Cruz, the gunman behind the 2018 school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
Though prosecutors were seeking the death penalty, the "jury would've had to reach that decision unanimously," Axios reports. Cruz, 24, pleaded guilty to 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted first-degree murder last October.
The Parkland shooting was the deadliest mass shooting at a U.S. high school, per Axios, having left 14 students and three staff members dead.
During the jury trial, which began in July, the defense argued Cruz's brain was "damaged before birth" — he suffered from undiagnosed fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, they said — and that he was subject to a number of "troubling circumstances" prior to the attack, "including the death of his adoptive mother from pneumonia," writes The New York Times. The prosecution, meanwhile, maintained that "the gravity of [Cruz's] crimes" justified the death penalty, the Times adds, noting that "many of the victims' families ... also supported capital punishment in the case."
Those in the courtroom "appeared horrified and baffled" at the jury's decision, the Times continues. None of the jurors looked in the direction of the victims' families as their recommendation was read, per CNN .
Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer set the sentencing date for Nov. 1, CNN adds, noting that, under Florida law, "Scherer cannot depart from the jury's recommendation of life."