AFlorida jury on Thursday recommended life in prison for a former student who murdered 17 people in the nation’s deadliest high school shooting.

Nikolas Cruz, 24, killed 14 students and three staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in Parkland on Valentine’s Day 2018, shooting into numerous classrooms with an AR-15 style assault rifle during the six-minute rampage and wounding 17 more.

The jury of seven men and five women returned their verdict after seven and a half hours of deliberations, following a 60-day trial in which Cruz’s defense team argued his actions were the result of mental illness and brain damage caused by fetal alcohol syndrome.

State prosecutors, however, argued that Cruz, who had signaled his desire to become a school shooter in videos and drawings he made before the attack, had meticulously plotted the killings.

Parkland students report on the shooting they survived and the classmates they lostUnmute

“It was goal-directed, it was calculated, it was purposeful and it was a systematic massacre,” state attorney Mike Satz told jurors in Fort Lauderdale, arguing that Cruz was afflicted by antisocial personality disorder.

Numerous family members of the victims, whose ages ranged from 13 to 49, attended the sometimes contentious trial daily, and were in court to hear the verdict of the jury, which began its deliberations on Wednesday afternoon.

Cruz pleaded guilty a year ago to 17 counts of murder, leaving the jury to decide only between a sentence of life imprisonment or the death penalty.

The shooting prompted student survivors to found the March for Our Lives gun safety advocacy group, and led to changes in Florida gun laws, including raising the minimum wage for firearms purchases to 21.

The massacre affected the community deeply, and had significant recriminations. Two Stoneman Douglas students later killed themselves, one a close friend of one of the victims. The Broward county sheriff, Scott Israel, was removed by Florida’s governor Ron DeSantis for perceived leadership failures.

Additionally, families of the victims and survivors reached a $127.5m settlement with the department of justice earlier this year after the FBI ignored warnings that Cruz intended to “shoot up a school”.

Source: The Guardian