These are the reasons the Parkland shooter's life may have been spared during his death penalty trial

These are the reasons the Parkland shooter's life may have been spared during his death penalty trial
In this Feb. 18, 2018 file photo, people light candles at a makeshift memorial outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 students and faculty were killed in a mass shooting days earlier in Parkland, Florida.AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File
  • A jury recommended that a Parkland shooter be spared from the death penalty.
  • Several factors may have saved his life, even though he will spend the rest of it in prison.

The Parkland gunman who pleaded guilty to killing 17 people during a 2018 mass shooting evaded a death penalty recommendation on Thursday.

The news left spectators and the families of the victims shocked, with questions and grievances about how the gunman, who seemed like a shoo-in for capital punishment, was recommended a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. His official sentencing is scheduled for November 1.

Three jurors voted against using the death penalty against the gunman. As the Associated Press reported, Florida's use of the death penalty is dependent on a unanimous vote from jurors on one or more counts for the punishment. The fact that the Parkland shooter was not sentenced to death indicates that at least one juror considered credible what's known as the mitigating factors.

Mitigating factors, which would give reason to show a defendant "mercy," are the opposite of aggravating factors, which push for the defendant's sentence, according to The New York Times. In this case, not all jurors agreed that the aggravating factors outweighed the mitigating factors.

Florida has eight mitigating factors — three of which may have applied to the gunman.


The first factor describes a defendant that "was under the influence of extreme mental or emotional disturbance" during the duration of the crime, while the second describes the defendant's capacity "to appreciate the criminality of his or her conduct" was "substantially impaired."

The third factor jurors may have considered included the possibility of "any other factors in the defendant's background that would mitigate against imposition of the death penalty."

The jury's recommendation may represent a growing apprehension toward the use of the death penalty — even as those jurors in the trial had to first believe that the death penalty is a viable punishment in the first place. The process is known as death qualification.

The US is among the 29% of countries that are holding on to the use of the death penalty. The country's judicial system continues to exercise the controversial process despite research showing it does not put off crime rates and is most commonly used against Black people or those belonging to other marginalized groups.

The gunman, now 24 years old, killed 14 students and three staff members on Valentine's Day at Florida's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018 marking one of the nation's worst school shootings.


During the three-month-long trial, the gunman's attorney Melisa McNeill argued that the gunman's mother "poisoned" him with her excessive drinking throughout her pregnancy which resulted in brain damage and violent patterns.

Conversely, prosecutors argued that the gunman planned the massacre months in advance rendering him mentally fit for the death penalty.

In closing arguments, McNeill said that if the jury thought the suspect may have made different choices under different life circumstances, they should spare him from death row: "Are there things that he didn't get that you wish he would have gotten? Was he missing people in his life that you wish he hadn't missed?"

"That's mitigation — that's a reason for life," she argued.