Prosecutors have put the case on hold during the penalty phase of the trial of Parkland school shooter Nicolas Cruz.
Cruz faces life in prison or the death penalty on 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder after his rampage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida on February 14, 2018. Cruz pleaded guilty to all charges.
Many of those injured when Cruz opened fire had earlier turned up as witnesses to describe the horrors of the day, but in the final stages of the prosecution case, the jury heard victim impact statements from the families of those who died that day.
In one of many heartbreaking moments, Chris Hickson’s son Corey – the school’s athletic director and wrestling coach, who died trying to save students – appeared with his mother to tell the jury about his father.
After being asked who his father was, Corey, who has special needs, leaned shyly to his mother when asked what he wanted to tell the jury about his father.
Debbi Hixon assured her son, tearing up, “I miss him,” before embracing his mother.
Asked to tell the jury if he had any more stories about the doughnuts, he said, encouraged by his mother’s whisper: “Every Saturday we would run to Dunkin’ Donuts and walk back.”
Many in the courtroom, from the victim’s family to court staff and even members of the defence team, could see the young man wipe away tears as he left the witness stand.
Mr Hickson was one of many family members or friends struggling to remember their children, siblings and spouses, some holding up photos while wiping away tears.
Cruz buried his face in his hands several times during the weeks-long trial.
Earlier in the day, a jury was taken to the scene of the shooting, the 1200 Building on the school’s campus, which was the same as the day of the tragedy, with only the victims and their personal belongings removed. The sealed building still had blood on the floor and bullet holes in the walls.
The jury will now rest until August 22, and the courtroom will be in darkness next week as lawyers prepare for the remainder of the trial.
After the Parkland shooting, Cory Hickson ran to Joe Biden immediately when he came to meet with the families of the victims. He gave the then-former vice president a big hug.
Mr. Biden kissed his head, thanked him for hugging him, and asked if he was okay.
He shook his head and buried his face in Mr. Biden’s jacket, reassured by the former vice president, who left office just a year ago.
Former White House cameraman Aaron Chaudhry tweeted footage of the moment in support of Mr Biden’s 2020 presidential candidacy.