Melisa McNeill, the defense attorney of Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz, on Thursday asked a Florida jury to grant him a life sentence and not death.

After nearly seven hours of deliberations, the jurors could not unanimously agree that he should be executed. Crus will be sentenced to life without parole for the 2018 murder of 17 people.

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Under Florida law, a death sentence requires a unanimous vote on at least one count. Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer will formally issue the life sentences on November 1. Relatives, along with the students and teachers Cruz wounded, will be given the opportunity to speak at the sentencing hearing.

Who is Melisa McNeill?

Melisa McNeill is the Chief Assistant Public Defender Capital Homicide Division at Broward County Public Defenders Office. She is the defense attorney for Nikolas Cruz. 

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McNeill, as per her LinkedIn profile, went to the  Shepard Broad College of Law at Nova Southeastern University. She was admitted to the Florida bar on April 20, 2001. She lives in Fort Lauderdale. 

McNeill and her team, throughout the trial, never questioned the horror Cruz inflicted, but focused on their belief that his birth mother’s heavy drinking during pregnancy left him with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. Their experts said his bizarre, troubling and sometimes violent behavior starting at age 2 was misdiagnosed as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, meaning he never got the proper treatment. 

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McNeill told jurors that Cruz already admitted his guilt and should be punished, just not with the death penalty.

“Sentencing Nicholas to death, extinguishing his life, will not make those problems go away. Sentencing Nicholas to death will change absolutely nothing,” she told the jury. “It will not bring back those 17 innocent victims that he viciously murdered. It won’t”