US

Parent of Parkland Shooting Victim Asks for Life Sentence for Killer

By Victor Westerkamp

The father of one of the victims of the 2018 Parkland School massacre has called for dropping the death penalty for the gunman to let him “rot in jail.”

Michael Schulman, 62, the father of Scott J. Beigel, the 35-year-old ninth-grade geography teacher and cross country coach who was one of the 17 people killed in the Parkland massacre, called in an op-ed for a swift closure to the tragedy.

Schulman said in his Nov. 29 op-ed for the South Florida Sun Sentinel: “‘Going for the death penalty’ 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.”

Schulman was writing in support of an editorial by the same newspaper, which said that the state of Florida should accept the plea deal proposed by shooter Nikolas Cruz’s defense of pleading guilty and accepting a life sentence without parole.

parkland school shooting anniversary
Suzanne Devine Clark visits a memorial set up at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School for those killed during a mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14, 2019. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

“We would be putting ourselves through this for the chance that the shooter would get what we all believe he deserves: the death penalty,” Schulman wrote. “Yet, even following a trial, the shooter could be sentenced to life without parole—the same sentence the shooter has already agreed to accept for in exchange for a guilty plea. Pursuing the death penalty 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.”

Schulman further pointed out that, on average, in the state of Florida it takes 16.1 years between the handing down of a death sentence and the actual execution. Meanwhile, there are opportunities for the defense team to make an appeal. If any of those appeals are granted, this would lead to a new trial with more hearings, tearing open old wounds, and the outcome would likely be the same: conversion of capital punishment into life-sentence without parole.

“I will be 66 years old in February of 2020. Most probably, I will be 82 years old before the shooter could possibly be executed. Many of the students who survived will be in their 20s and 30s. Many of the parents of those killed will be in their 50s and 60s, if not older,” Schulman wrote. “Who wants to live, what should be the most important periods of their lives, with this hanging over their heads?”

Cruz in court
Nikolas Cruz appears in court for a status hearing before Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Feb. 19, 2018. (Mike Stocker/Pool/Reuters)

But for now, the prosecutors’ team led by veteran State Attorney Michael Satz will not settle for anything less than the ultimate penalty, as judge Elizabeth Scherer demanded that Cruz will go to trial in January, which means the defense team will have to hear every single of the 435 state-designated witnesses, including 84 former or present students to be deposed in order to have their defense prepared.

A spokeswoman said, according to the Sun Sentinel, Satz’s office is “very sympathetic to the trauma that surviving victims and witnesses are experiencing and we think it is more appropriate that we file our response in court.”