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  • “Irretrievably broken”: Nikolas Cruz’s legal team claims Parkland shooter’s brain was damaged due to mother’s addiction issues
Nikolas Cruz’s legal team claims his brain was damaged due to his mother’s addiction issues. (Image via Broward County Courthouse)

“Irretrievably broken”: Nikolas Cruz’s legal team claims Parkland shooter’s brain was damaged due to mother’s addiction issues

On February 14, 2018, the then 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz shot and killed 17 people at Parkland's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. In October 2021, the now 23-year-old Cruz pleaded guilty to the murder of the 17 people at his former high school in Parkland, Florida.

However, on Monday, August 22, 2022, Nikolas Cruz's defense team pleaded with jurors not to execute the shooter. They claimed that his biological mother's drug and alcohol use during pregnancy caused his brain to be "irretrievably broken."

OBSERVATION: Nikolas Cruz’ attorney is doing an outstanding job with her open. These facts are as heinous as they get. This is trial advocacy in its most difficult form.
@CourtTV @CourtTVUK

Cruz's primary attorney, Melisa McNeill, said that her client had been exposed to drugs and alcohol while still in his mother's womb. She claimed that this was a possible explanation for the slaughter and added:

"He is a damaged human being.”

She addressed the jury of 10 substitute jurors and said:

"Because of that, his brain was irretrievably broken, through no fault of his own. We must understand the person behind the crime."
An attorney for Nikolas Cruz asked jurors to consider the Parkland school shooter's dysfunctional family life and his serious mental health issues when they decide whether to sentence him to death for killing 17 people. CNN's leylasantiago reports:

Nikolas Cruz's birth mother was a drug addict and a s*x worker

In her defense arguments, McNeill stated that Nikolas Cruz's mother was pregnant with him when she was a homeless alcoholic with a drug addiction. She added that his mother, who gave Cruz up for adoption, also worked as a prostitute while she was pregnant.

Defense opening in #ParklandSchool penalty phase: Attorney tells jurors Nikolas Cruz "poisoned in the womb", his biological mother, Brenda Woodard's "drinking and drugging" during pregnancy caused brain damage. Cruz has fetal alcohol spectrum and anti-social personality disorders

Carolyn Deakins, who was the first witness on Monday, claimed to have rendered prostitution services with Cruz's deceased mother Brenda Woodard in 1990s. She said that Woodard was carrying a child at the time.


Reportedly, Woodard was also using cocaine, marijuana and alcohol while she was pregnant. However, she "didn't care" as she planned to give the child up for adoption.

Danielle Woodard, Nikolas Cruz's half-sister, also stated in her testimony that her mother was using drugs when Cruz was growing inside her "contaminated womb." Danielle added that their mother said that she had also been raped.

Danielle Woodard says she was living with maternal grandma and then went back to live with Brenda the summer before 6th grade. She says Nikolas Cruz was in her mother's "polluted womb". #ParklandShooter @LawCrimeNetwork

McNeill also admitted that Cruz was the only one accountable for all the agony and suffering he had caused. She added that there was no excuse for the vicious murders of the 17 innocent people.

However, she also stated that his biological mother Brenda Woodard's choices when she poisoned him in the womb were the beginning of all the decisions he made on that particular day.

The attorney noted:

“His prenatal vitamins consisted of...Bum wine, crack cocaine and cigarettes. At the time she gave up her baby, she was living on the streets, drinking, drugging, selling her body.”

Nikolas Cruz was adopted by Lynda and Roger Cruz, and according to McNeill, his questionable behavior became apparent at a very early age, after he began hanging out with other kids.

She also said that he had psychiatric care and had been diagnosed with anti-social personality problems. He has been receiving special education services since he was three years old.


McNeill said:

“He was seeing a psychiatrist. He was seeing a clinical psychologist. He had a case manager. In-home services. However he continued to struggle with behavioral issues and academic issues."

One of the bloodiest school shootings in American history was carried out by Nikolas Cruz in 2018, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

The 17 people who were killed in the shooting included 14 students and three adults. The names of the 14 students are: Alyssa Alhadeff, Martin Duque, Nicholas Dworet, Jaime Guttenberg, Luke Hoyer, Cara Loughran, Gina Montalto, Joaquin Oliver, Alaina Petty, Meadow Pollack, Helena Ramsay, Alex Schachter, Carmen Schentrup, and Peter Wang. In addition, Aaron Feis, Chris Hixon, and Scott Beigel were the adults who were murdered.

Edited by
Madhur Dave
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