Parkland trial offers rare look at mass shooting gore, sparking ethics debate – National
Warning: This story contains a graphic description. Readers should be arbitrary.
Few Americans outside of law enforcement and government have ever seen the most graphic videos or images of the nation’s worst mass shootings – in most states, such evidence is only available. on display at trial, and most such killers die during or shortly after their attacks. They never went to court.
That made the Florida school shooter’s penalty trial Nikolas Cruz because in 2018 he killed 17 people in Parkland’s The unusual Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
As the United States’ worst mass shooting to go to trial, surveillance videos taken during his attack and crime scenes and autopsy photos show the horrific consequences. Its horrors are being seen by jurors on screened video screens and after the trial each day, shown to a small group of journalists. But they are not displayed in galleries, where parents and spouses sit, or for the public to see on TV.
Some people online believe that should change – that for a well-informed debate about gun violence, the public should view serial killers like Cruz as perpetrated, often with speed bullets. high is fired from AR-15 semi-automatic rifles and similar weapons.
Others disagree. They say that publicly displaying such videos and images will further harm victims’ families and may entice some people with mental disorders to commit their mass shootings. They believe that such evidence should be sealed.
Liz Dunning, vice president of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, doesn’t believe the release of such videos and photos will have the political impact some think. Polls show that most Americans support stronger background checks for gun buyers and bans or restrictions on AR-15s and similar weapons, said Dunning, who has mother was killed by a gunman said.
“Public perception is not the issue,” says Dunning. “We should ask more about strong people.”
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Since most of America’s worst mass shooters were killed by themselves or by police during or shortly after their attacks, it is rare for anyone outside the government to see the surveillance videos. or police images and such autopsies. The public has seen no such evidence after the Las Vegas shootings in 2017, Orlando in 2016, Sandy Hook in 2012, Virginia Tech in 2007 and others.
But Cruz, 23, fled after shooting and was arrested an hour later. In October, he pleaded guilty to 17 counts of first-degree murder – his trial was only to determine if he was sentenced to death or life without parole. The videos and photos are part of the prosecutor’s case.
Since the trial began on July 18, everyone in the courtroom and watching on TV has witnessed and heard the heartbreaking testimonies of teachers and students who witnessed someone else dies. They heard gunfire and screams as jurors watched the video on cell phones.
But when videos and graphics are presented, they are not displayed. Usually, they only hear medical examiners and police give insensitive descriptions of what the jury is seeing.
Then, at the end of each day, a group of reporters reviewed the photos and videos, but were only allowed to write descriptions. It’s a compromise because some parents fear photos of their dead children will be posted online and don’t want media access.
Miami media attorney Thomas Julin said that in Florida before the internet, any photograph or other evidence presented at trial could be viewed and copied by anyone. Newspapers don’t print the most gruesome pictures, so no one cares.
But in the mid-1990s when the internet exploded, Danny Rolling faced the death penalty for the mass murder of four University of Florida students and a community college student. The victim’s family argued that publishing crime scene photos would cause them emotional trauma. The judge ruled that anyone could see the photos, but no one could copy them. Such compromises have become the norm in high-profile murder trials in Florida.
The surveillance video of the Stoneman Douglas shooting is silent. It shows Cruz methodically moving from floor to floor in a three-story classroom building, shooting down hallways and into classrooms. The victim fell. Cruz often stops and shoots them again before moving on.
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Crime scene photos show the dead where they fell, sometimes lying on top of or next to each other, often with distorted shapes. Blood and sometimes brain matter was splattered on the floor and walls.
Autopsy photographs show the damage Cruz and his bullets caused. Some of the victims had large head injuries. One student had an elbow blown, another student had an open shoulder. Another person had almost all of his forearm torn.
However, despite their horror, Columbia University journalism professor Bruce Shapiro says most autopsies and crime scene photos won’t have a lasting impact on the public because they don’t. have context.
Shapiro, who runs the university’s advisory organization on how journalists should cover violence.
Photographs of Emmett Till’s mangled body lying in a coffin after the black teenager was tortured and killed by white extremists in Mississippi in 1955. Mary Ann Vecchio screams at the student’s body Jeffrey Miller of Kent after he was shot by a National Guard soldier in 1970. Vietnamese child Phan Thi Kim Phuc runs naked after being burned by napalm bombs in 1972. Video of police officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on the ground neck of George Floyd until his death in 2020.
“They work not just because they are graphic, but because they are powerful, stirring images,” says Shapiro.
And even if graphic photos and videos were to be released, most major newspapers, television services and broadcasters would be hesitant to use them. Their editors weigh whether the public interest of viewing an image outweighs any sketchy interest – and they often pass.
That will only leave most for the most famous sites. They will also become fodder for potential mass shooters who frequently research past killers. Cruz did; Testimony shows that he spent seven months prior to his attack conducting hundreds of computer searches for the execution of the massacres.
Shapiro said: “The images of the carnage will become part of their dark fantasy lives.
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