Lawyers for Parkland gunman Nikolas Cruz cry during sentencing trial

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The last thing Fred Guttenberg said to his 14-year-old daughter was that it was time for her to go, that she was going to be late. Hours after rushing his two children to school on Valentine’s Day morning in 2018, a gunman unleashed a barrage of gunfire inside a Parkland, Florida, high school – kill 17 peopleincluding Jaime Guttenberg.

During Tuesday’s sentencing proceedings for convicted gunman Nikolas Cruz, Guttenberg’s voice cracked as he spoke about the imagined future he had for Jaime, a future that never s never materialized. But those weren’t the only tears that fell in court — members of Cruz’s defense team were also crying, videos show.

“I don’t remember if I ever told Jaime that day how much I loved him. I didn’t know I would lose the chance to say it again and again and again,” Guttenberg said as public defender Nawal Najet Bashiman dabbed her eyes with a tissue. Two other members of Cruz’s team also shed tears during their testimony on Tuesday.

Jurors have heard from teachers, survivors and families whose lives have been turned upside down by the massacre since the trial began on July 18. They saw videos of students fleeing for their lives and listened to the screams and loud bangs that rang through the air that day. all to determine whether Cruz, who pleaded guilty in October, should be sentenced to death or life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Prosecutors arguing for the death penalty base their arguments on seven of the aggravating factors established in state law, including that Cruz’s actions were “particularly heinous, atrocious or cruel”.

“These actions, killing 14 children, the athletic director, the coach and a teacher, are the reason we are here today – cold, calculating, manipulative and deadly,” said Broward County District Attorney Michael Satz, in his opening statement.

In Florida, a death sentence requires a unanimous jury recommendation. If sentenced to death, Cruz, now 23, would be one of the youngest to receive this sentence in decades.

Defense attorneys for Cruz – who had offered a guilty plea in return for a life sentence – previously painted a portrait of a troubled young man who showed signs of remorse after battling health issues mental and a difficult childhood. However, they announced on July 18 that they would not make an opening statement until it was time to present their case in the following weeks.

Four years after Parkland school massacre, parents of victims protest and mourn

In the meantime, however, the proceedings have been filled with testimonials from parents recounting heartbreak after heartbreak — stirring emotions even for those working to save Cruz’s life.

It’s rare for lawyers to cry in the courtroom, especially “based on something the other side has said,” said Keith Swisher, professor of legal ethics at James E. Rogers College of Law. from the University of Arizona.

As this is “an incredibly overwhelming, passionate and atypical case”, it is unlikely to lead to any negative consequences for lawyers, he said. This could, however, lead Cruz to seek a new lawyer, he added.

“In a typical court case … the client would likely feel betrayed and perhaps the wrong signal would be sent to the judge or jury if the client’s own attorney was crying based on the opposing party’s evidence or arguments,” he said. said Swisher. “If the crying or other visible signals could bias the jury against the defendant, the defendant may have a basis to appeal.”

On Tuesday, Thomas and Gena Hoyer described how the loss of their 15-year-old son, Luke – affectionately called by his mother “Lukey Bear” – had irreparably shattered what had been “a family unit of five always trying to fit into a world of even numbers”, said Thomas Hoyer. .

Luke had been a “surprise baby”, arriving several years after his older siblings. This morning of February 14, he woke up with a bag of Skittles and a card from his mother. His dad, on his way to work, shouted ‘Have a nice day’ from downstairs without seeing Luke’s face – in ‘the kind of casual exchange you have when you think you’re together for always,” Hoyer said, “and then we haven’t.”

During the Hoyers’ victim impact statement, public defenders Bashiman and Tamara Curtis couldn’t hold back their tears. Chief Public Defender Melisa McNeill suffered hers. Cruz was sitting expressionless.

Shortly after, Judge Elizabeth Scherer called for a 10-minute break.

As the assistants got up and started to clean the room, crumpled tissues could be seen on the table where the defense team sat – they would be used again.

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