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Unanimous jury needed to impose death penalty for Parkland killer

A law change in 2016 makes imposing the death penalty even more rare.

FLORIDA, USA — It's been four years since the deadly Valentine's Day shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Flags across the state are flying at half-staff at government buildings and parks in honor of the lives lost.

Seventeen people including 14 students and three staff members were shot and killed at the school on Valentine's Day 2018.

The killer, Nikolas Cruz, confessed to the murders in the hours following the shooting but his trial still hasn't started.

The delays were caused by the pandemic and arguments over evidence and testimony.

RELATED: Flags to be flown at half-staff for lives lost in Parkland shooting

In October 2021, Cruz pleaded guilty to the murder charges. His attorneys hoped his guilty plea would be accepted in exchange for a life sentence but the prosecution has maintained their intentions to seek the death penalty.

Rohom Khonsari, a criminal defense attorney not related to Cruz's case says it's going to be tough to get the death penalty because of a law change in 2016 requiring every juror to agree to the death penalty.

"Now that the law is unanimous, it's much harder for the death penalty to be imposed since you have to convince all the jurors that the aggravating factors outweigh the mitigating factors," Khonsari said.

By 'mitigating factors', Khonsari is referring to the defense's argument. He said they might say that Cruz's mental state clouded his judgement.

"The multiple personalities led him to not understand the difference between right and wrong. That’s a competency issue but also an issue that can be used as a mitigating factor in the death penalty," he added.

The trial is scheduled to start in April.

RELATED: Parkland school massacre gunman pleads guilty to murder of 17. Here's when he'll be sentenced

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