Jurors visited the school building where the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting occurred Thursday as part of the trial to decide whether Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz should receive the death penalty.
Cruz previously pleaded guilty in October to charges related to the Feb. 2018 shooting that left 14 students and three staff members dead; as per Florida law, a jury will now decide whether Cruz receives the death penalty sentence or life in prison.
In July, survivors of the Parkland shooting delivered emotional testimony in support of the state’s death penalty case, and on Thursday, jurors — as well as prosecutors, Cruz’s lawyers, and the judge — were transported from the courthouse to the still-closed building in the school complex where the shooting happened. Cruz himself waived his right to return to the crime scene.
There, the jurors silently — no one was permitted to speak during the visit, lawyers included — walked the still-bloodstained and bullet-holed halls of “Building 12.” Following the jurors’ visit, journalists were allowed inside the building, which has been closed off to students and the public since the tragedy occurred four years ago. Only the bodies and personal effects such as backpacks have been removed from the building.
The Broward County school district will seek to demolish the building following the death penalty case, the Associated Press reported.
The AP also noted that it’s rare for jurors to walk through a crime scene in a death penalty case, as the unpredictable nature of the visit could potentially form the grounds for a mistrial. However, prosecutors felt the Parkland visit was necessary given Florida’s capitol punishment law, which dictates that the jury must unanimously vote for the death penalty; if even one juror doesn’t support the death penalty in the case, Cruz will instead receive life in prison.