Opinion: The Parkland shooter deserves life in prison


Credit: Nathan Crozier

WSPN’s Nathan Crozier discusses the affects of Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz’s verdict of life in prison.

Nathan Crozier

Four years ago, on Valentine’s Day, Parkland, Florida faced a horrific loss. Valentine’s Day is a time to give your heart to others, not to take lives away. Those who intentionally kill others should live out the rest of their days in a jail cell, rather than receive the death sentence. Nikolas Cruz is no exception in my eyes.

On February 14, 2018, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School dealt with a school shooting, resulting in the death of 17 individuals. These losses were real people, some of them students, some faculty. The man responsible was then 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, now 24, who was arrested 82 minutes after the shooting, walking down a street two miles from Stoneman Douglas.

I lived briefly in Parkland, just a mere four miles away from Stoneman Douglas. I knew many people who were close to those that were killed. I moved away just a year before that mass tragedy. Through social media, I saw the pain of those who knew individuals that didn’t make it out of the school that day.

Cruz’s trial began on July 1, 2022. Cruz pled guilty, so a majority of the trial related to how severe his punishment would be. I watched the proceedings live, curious as to how they would sentence Cruz. The trial concluded on October 13, 2022, with the judge declaring that Cruz serve out a life sentence, rather than be put to death. Nine individuals of the jury voted for his death penalty, while three were against it. The jury had taken into consideration that there were mental health and family issues that influenced Cruz’s actions on that horrific day.

I was grief-stricken upon hearing news of the shooting. I witnessed many people who I cared for suffer in anguish from losing their loved ones. The pain that the victims’ families felt—to never be able to see the victims again, to talk with them or express their love for them—must’ve been unbearable for them.

I was comforted to see karma doing its part, as Cruz was finally getting what he deserved. Life in prison forces Cruz to face the sins of his actions and endure the suffering he inflicted upon the families. I am glad to see it.

The death penalty has been a contentious point for a long time. Some families and friends of murder victims believe that the death of the killer will bring them closure. However, grief prevents many victims of loss from attaining closure. I’ve lost loved ones and proceeded to lash out at others, but I’ve realized that doing this didn’t help me heal. This grief that I, and several others have experienced, may cause some individuals to lash out towards juries for not voting for the death penalty.

The death of the individual does not solve all issues relating to closure. For many, healing and feeling closure over a loved one’s murder is not something that can be solved by the killer’s death.

Life in prison is the best sentencing for Cruz to experience the emotional pain he inflicted upon the victims’ families. With the detrimental mental health effects that many incarcerated individuals face, this prolonged suffering might be the most painful thing for Cruz, rather than this imprisonment being cut short by execution. Regardless of his background, he committed a heinous crime. He deserves to pay the price.

I once thought that death was the only solution for a killer, yet over time, I have come to believe that life in prison is the most fair sentencing a killer can receive. It’s understandable that the mindset of those close to the victim believe the killer’s death will, somehow, fill the void in their hearts. Yet, grief is not an open and closed situation; it never leaves the families.

The court made the correct decision by sentencing Cruz to life in prison. In a case as grave as this, the court’s decision properly executes an equal punishment to the suffering Cruz has caused countless families. Life in prison ensures that the monster rots in his cell, forces him to face his sins and forever be punished until he takes his final breath.