You can see them in the gallery every day.
Since the penalty phase of the Parkland shooter’s trial began a week and a half ago, family members of those killed in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre have been there in the courtroom, absorbing the horrors as they are described by witness after witness.
Tony and Jennifer Montalto come to the courthouse to represent their daughter, Gina, who was among the 17 gunned down inside the 1200 building. On Tuesday, mom and dad listened to the medical examiner being questioned by prosecutor Mike Satz.
“Dr. Osbourne, are you able to tell the order of the shots that hit Gina Montalto?” Satz asked.
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“No, I can’t specifically say the specific order in which they occurred,” replied Dr. Marlon Osbourne.
“Of course it’s very difficult for our family in particular and all the families as we hear in detail the causes of death of our loved ones, as we hear about the heinousness of the crime, of course we all live with the loss of our loved ones every day, and now it’s the public’s chance to learn just how horrible it was,” Tony Montalto said.
The medical examiner’s testimony was dry, clinical and devastating.
“Wound A looks like a typical entrance wound,” Dr. Osbourne said, part of his long description of how each victim was ripped apart by the bullets of the assault rifle used by the killer.
When asked how he maintains his composure sitting just yards away from the man who murdered his daughter, Montalto said, “For each of our families, we understand the importance of this process, we understand the need to remain composed in the courtroom, as is being required of us, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t feel the pain, it doesn’t mean that we won’t break down and cry, but it does mean that we will be there and do what’s right to represent our loved ones who were murdered, at the same time allowing for a fair trial."
Some families choose absence. They avoid the torture of being in the vicinity of the murderer. The Montalto’s go because they feel a profound responsibility.
“It’s what drives it for my wife and I, we feel very strongly that we should be there to have the jury see the effect of this horrible crime on the families. Our daughter Gina was bright and bubbly, she was friendly, she was smart, she was just fantastic. To have her gone from our lives and from this world, is one of the reasons we’re here,” he said.
The families share that purpose, and they share each other’s grief.
“We’re fortunate in some ways to have a great group of families who understand the pain that each of us is going through and we do talk about that and I welcome the support I get from them,” Montalto said.
The Parkland families have leaned on each other since the tragedy happened on Valentine’s Day of 2018. They will be in the courtroom for the duration of the trial, making sure the jury sees the visceral impact of the killer’s rampage.