A man whose son was killed during the Feb. 14, 2018, shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has called for the prosecutors to drop the death penalty and “let the shooter rot in jail for the rest of his life.”
Michael Schulman’s 35-year-old son Scott Beigel was a ninth-grade geography teacher and cross country coach at the Parkland, Fla., high school and was one of 17 people killed when a former student opened fire.
“‘Going for the death penalty’ will not bring our loved ones back to us,” Schulman wrote in an op-ed for the South Florida Sun Sentinel. “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 noted that calling for the death penalty will require survivors and victims’ family members to take part in a large-scale trial that could result in weeks of emotional testimony.
“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.”
Even if the suspected gunman is sentenced to the death penalty, Schulman pointed to Florida Department of Corrections statistics which find that the average prison sentence for death row inmates is more than 16 years and includes several appeals which could “re-open our wounds by testifying again.”
“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 20’s and 30’s. Many of the parents of those killed will be in their 50’s and 60’s, 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?”
The father, from Dix Mills, N.Y., asked for State Attorney Michael Satz to instead let the shooter “rot in jail for the rest of his life.”
“Let us try and get some closure! Let us try and move forward with our lives,” Schulman concluded.
Satz’s office declined to comment on Schulman’s op-ed to The Hill.
Nikolas Cruz, who admitted to the shooting, has offered to plead guilty to the charges if prosecutors waive the death penalty; however, Satz is pushing for capital punishment, The Sun Sentinel reported.
“Satz is pursuing Cruz’s execution with the tenacity of the fictional Captain Ahab hunting his nemesis, the white whale Moby Dick,” the newspaper wrote this week in an editorial. “That leaves the defense no choice but to prepare for a full-bore trial.”
The state reportedly plans to call 435 people — including 84 present or former high school students — as major witnesses but the newspaper reported that traumatized students are desperate to avoid the trial.
“Sometimes we have to stop because the witness gets upset,” Melissa McNeil, Cruz’s lead assistant public defender, told the newspaper. “We have postponed or suspended depositions in the middle because a witness cannot continue. We were actually told this week by a student’s mother that if we depose her daughter, her daughter would kill herself.”
Satz’s spokeswoman said his 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.”