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Jurors heard opening statements on the first day of the Parkland shooting trial

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Nikolas Cruz is trying to persuade a jury he doesn't deserve the death penalty. Cruz has already pleaded guilty to murdering 17 people and wounding 17 others at a school in Parkland, Fla. There are details in this story that are disturbing, and some may want to turn away and come back when it's over. It lasts around 3 minutes. Here's NPR's Greg Allen.

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: In this, the sentencing phase of the trial, the 12-member jury has just two options - give Cruz life in prison without parole or the death penalty. To make the decision under Florida law, they'll have to consider whether aggravating outweigh mitigating factors. In his opening statement yesterday, prosecutor Mike Satz listed several potential aggravating factors. It was a mass killing. It was done in a school. And public officials, teachers, were killed. Another key factor, Satz said, is that it was premeditated and planned. Three days before he attacked the school, Cruz recorded a video. Satz read for jurors from the transcript.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MIKE SATZ: (Reading) I'm going to be the next school shooter of 2018. My goal is at least 20 people with an AR-15 and some tracer rounds.

ALLEN: Cruz used an AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle in carrying out the murders. The defense surprised many when attorneys said they'd delay delivering their opening statement till the prosecution wraps up its case. That may not be for weeks. That left the day to prosecutors and their witnesses. Satz walked jurors through Cruz's rampage through the three-story Parkland high school building. He described how Cruz entered the school and began shooting students and adults in the hallways and through the windows and locked classroom doors. Danielle Gilbert is in college now but was a junior in her AP psychology class when she and her 30 classmates heard the gunshots and tried to hide behind their teacher's desk. She says, flatly, they were sitting ducks.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DANIELLE GILBERT: That's when he had shot into our classroom. He injured four people in my classroom, one of them being fatal.

SATZ: The person killed was 16-year-old Carmen Schentrup. The most disturbing part of the day was when prosecutors played for the jury videos Gilbert had recorded on her cellphone during the shooting. Many in the courtroom were visibly affected. Through it all, Cruz had his head in his hands or down on the table. Another prosecution witness, Dylan Kraemer, also in college now, was a junior in a class on the history of the Holocaust. When they heard gunshots, he says, students knocked over a file cabinet in order to hide behind it.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DYLAN KRAEMER: Eventually, the shooter started shooting through the window. And bullets were flying through. Ducking down, waiting 20, 30 seconds. And then it stopped. And I looked over. And two people were dead, and multiple people were shot.

ALLEN: Helena Ramsay and Nicholas Dworet, both 17 years old, were dead. Following one of the videos, defense attorneys complained that the loud volume and disturbing nature had inflamed the jury and asked the judge to declare a mistrial. She refused. The prosecution continues its case today. Greg Allen, NPR News, Fort Lauderdale. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As NPR's Miami correspondent, Greg Allen reports on the diverse issues and developments tied to the Southeast. He covers everything from breaking news to economic and political stories to arts and environmental stories. He moved into this role in 2006, after four years as NPR's Midwest correspondent.