As the capital punishment trial of accused Parkland, Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz was postponed until at least the summer of 2020, the father of one of the victims of the attack has urged the prosecution to end the case now by dropping the death penalty.

Michael Schulman’s son, Scott Beigel, was the track coach and a geography teacher at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (pictured). He was one of 14 students and three teachers killed in the February 14, 2018 mass shooting at the school. In an op-ed in the South Florida Sun Sentinel, Schulman wrote that he believes the shooter deserves the death penalty, but “put[ting] the students and faculty through the trauma of reliving that horrible day is cruel and unnecessary.”

“‘Going for the death penalty,’” Schulman wrote, “will not bring our loved ones back to us. It will not make the physical scars of those wounded go away. In fact, what it will do is to continue the trauma and not allow the victims to heal and get closure.”

Cruz has offered to plead guilty and be sentenced to 34 consecutive life sentences without parole if prosecutors waive the death penalty. State Attorney Michael Satz, who called the 19-year-old Cruz “evil” and “worse than Ted Bundy,” has rejected the offer.

The court initially set a January 27, 2020 start date for the trial, less than two years after the February 14, 2018 shooting. But in a court hearing on December 19, 2019, Broward County Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer agreed to a defense request to push back the trial date. The court did not set a new date, but Judge Scherer told the lawyers for the prosecution and the defense that the case “is going to be tried this summer, at some point.”

Schulman’s November 29, 2019 op-ed noted that a trial would not inevitably result in Cruz’s execution, and that even after a trial, or as a result of court decisions on appeal, “the shooter could be sentenced to life without parole — the same sentence [he] has already agreed to accept in exchange for a guilty plea. Pursuing the death penalty,” Schulman wrote, “means subjecting ourselves to the trauma of a trial, reliving the murder of our loved ones for a result we could have obtained without that trauma.”

“[L]et the shooter rot in jail for the rest of his life,” he wrote. “Let us try and get some closure! Let us try and move forward with our lives.”

In seeking postponement of the start of trial, Cruz’s defense lawyers argued that the initial trial schedule was hurried and invited reversal on appeal if Cruz were convicted. The motion said that the prosecution had named 435 major witnesses to appear in the case, including 84 current or former Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students, 17 of whom had been wounded in the attack. Noting that the average time between arrest and trial in the 38 death-penalty case tried in Broward County since 1994 was more than four years, defense counsel said they could not properly investigate the case and present a defense at a trial set for less than two years after the shooting.

Cruz’s lead defense lawyer, Assistant Public Defender Melissa McNeil, described the sensitivity of the interview process. “Sometimes we have to stop because the witness gets upset. We have postponed or suspended depositions in the middle because a witness cannot continue. We were actually told … by a student’s mother that if we depose her daughter, her daughter would kill herself.”


Michael B. Schulman, Parkland par­ent: Drop death penal­ty for shoot­er, let him rot in jail, South Florida Sun Sentinel, November 29, 2019; Curt Anderson, Parkland School Shooting Trial Delayed Until at Least Summer, Associated Press, December 19, 2019; Curt Anderson, Parkland School Shooting Defense Seeks Delay in Trial Start, Associated Press, December 18, 2019; Editorial, Delay the Nikolas Cruz tri­al or accept his plea, South Florida Sun Sentinel, November 24, 2019; David Ovalle, Parkland killer’s legal team wants pros­e­cu­tor tossed over worse than Ted Bundy’ com­ment, Miami Herald, September 42019.