Exclusive: Human Rights Organizer Believes Race Played a Role in Parkland Shooter Being Spared Death Penalty

Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz has been spared the death penalty and sentenced to life in prison by a Florida jury for carrying out the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School – a move that stunned the families of his victims.

Cruz pleaded guilty last year to 17 counts of first-degree murder and 17 counts of attempted first-degree murder in connection to the February 14, 2018, killing of 14 students and three staff members at his former school.

After a month-long trial deciding Cruz’s fate, the jury’s recommendation is not an official sentence. Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer is still expected to issue the gunman’s proper sentence on November 1. Under Florida law, however, she cannot depart from the jury’s recommendation of life.

In an exclusive interview with Baller Alert, former National Director of NAACP and National Human Rights Organizer Tiffany Loftin shares her expertise on the jury’s recommendation.

What would constitute someone to get the death penalty?

“I’ve been organizing for 12 years, and I have come to form important values for how I do my work and what justice means to me. My values agree that nothing constitutes the death penalty, no matter how mad I am personally at the injustice or violence done. I am against the death penalty and believe it should be abolished because it is uncivilized, especially in the US where poor people, people of color, and the location of a person impacts the likelihood of how they are treated in the death penalty system. It is also a huge waste of taxpayers’ funders and has no public safety benefit because it doesn’t prove to prevent crime.”

What’s the difference between this situation and another situation in which someone has gotten the death penalty?

“The difference here to me clearly race. I worked in Oklahoma for 3 months with the Grassroots Law Project and the Julius Jones Coalition, the Terence Crutcher Foundation to stop the execution of Julius Jones. I am organizing with a campaign right now to free Marvin Guy, who recently had his capital punishment charges dropped but has been sitting in jail for 9 years without trial. These Black men who are quickly erased, ignored, abandoned, and thrown to an execution chair unfairly do not get the same pardon or sympathy from jurors, elected officials, or the public. Cruz murdered 17 people in 2018 and will spend his life in prison and Jones, who killed nobody, fought to avoid the execution chair up to 3 hours before his execution with no empathy or respect for his family from Oklahoma elected officials. Race I am sure has deeper implications as it relates to lynching in this country. And the Black Lives Matter movement has done great work as a movement to advocate this conversation about the caste system of injustice this country needs to abolish and rethink.”
The shooter’s defense attorneys said Cruz had neurodevelopmental disorders stemming from prenatal alcohol exposure, and presented evidence and witnesses claiming his birth mother had used drugs and drank alcohol while pregnant with him. What are your thoughts on that?
“My thoughts are that is sad, too bad for him and his family. I don’t know what else I should say because I know they won’t forgive him of his actions or bring the families’ loved ones back.”

Family members of the victims were visibly emotional when Judge Elizabeth Scherer read through the verdict. Some were even shaking their heads and others wiping tears.

Lori Alhadeff, the mother of Alyssa Alhadeff, dropped her head into her hand as the verdict related to her daughter was read.

Max Schachter, the father of victim Alex Schachter, 14, tweeted that the gunman “got everything he wanted” with the verdict “while our loved ones are in the cemetery.”

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