Nikolas Cruz could be executed after local prosecutors said they will pursue the death penalty
Cruz, 19, opened fire on fellow classmates at Majory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on February 14, leaving 17 dead and left scores more injured.
His defence team had already offered for Cruz to plead guilty to 17 counts of attempted murder and 17 counts of murder in exchange for life in prison.
The Broward State Attorney’s Office announced it would not take the death penalty off the table as it listed “seven aggravating factors” that a jury could use to justify Cruz’s execution.
These factors include “heinous, atrocious and cruel” elements in regards to the nature of the crime, and the “cold, calculated and premeditated” way that the horrific events unfolded.
But families of Cruz’s victims have hit out at the decision.
Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jamie was murdered in the shooting, said he wished he was spoken to be before the decision was made.
He told local news: “I’m annoyed, I would have loved an opportunity to be heard.
“I wish they would have asked the families what they wanted before they made that announcement.
“We were under the impression that, after the arraignment, we would have an opportunity to speak with the prosecutors before a decision as made.”
Initial reactions on social media are mixed social media users saying: “That’s the easy way out, let him rot in a prison hole underground without ever seeing daylight again” and “Show the next potential shooter what the consequences are”.
Before 2017 the jury’s decision did not have to be unanimous to recommend the capital punishment in the state of Florida.
Now the jury will have to come to a unanimous decision that the 19-year-old shooter should get the death penalty before a judge can impose it.
If Cruz is sentenced to death he will not be the youngest person to be executed in the state.
The youngest inmates to be executed in Florida were both 16 years old, Willie Clay in 1941 and James Davis in 1944.
The last person to be executed in Florida was Eric Scott Branch, one week after the Parkland shooting on February 22.