The brother and sister of Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz are expected to testify on his behalf this week, when the killer’s defense attorneys unveil their case at his sentencing trial.
Arguing that his troubled childhood warrants some measure of mercy, Cruz’s counsel will lobby jurors in Florida to give him a sentence of life in prison, rather than the death penalty.
His half-sister, Danielle Woodard, 35, and brother, Zachary Cruz, 22, are expected to be questioned on the circumstances of their infamous sibling’s upbringing.
Woodward, who shares her birth mother with Cruz, is currently behind bars awaiting trial for allegedly car-jacking a 72-year-old woman in Broward County in 2020, and will be transferred from the jail to testify.
She has a long criminal history and has served several stints behind bars since her youth.
While their mother put Cruz up for adoption while still an infant, Woodard is expected to tell jurors about her drug and alcohol use while pregnant with him.
Zachary Cruz, who was hit with six months probation for trespassing at the shooting site after the murders, is expected to answer questions about his brother’s early life.
The defense team will highlight several traumas Nikolas Cruz endured as a child, including his mother’s cocaine and alcohol use while pregnant, his alleged sexual abuse by an unidentified “peer” and his adoptive father’s death at age 5.
Cruz’s lawyers will also bring up his acute mental health problems, bullying he endured at school and his adoptive mother’s passing months prior to the Feb. 14, 2018 massacre.
Cruz, then 19, opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and killed 14 students and three staffers in one of the worst mass shootings in the nation’s history. He has pleaded guilty to 17 counts of first-degree murder.
The defense deferred giving their opening statement at the start of the trial, and will do so as early as Monday.
Prosecutors presented Cruz’s crimes in graphic detail, with jurors watching footage of the bloodshed and touring the fenced-off crime scene.
Relatives and friends of those killed have given wrenching testimony about their torment, at times drawing tears from Cruz’s lawyers.