Finding unbiased, impartial jurors willing to consider a life-or-death sentence for Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz appears to be picking up speed.
Eighteen of 30 prospective jurors passed the second phase of questioning Wednesday, bringing the total to 68 who have survived two rounds of jury selection in Cruz’s sentencing trial.
Most said they wanted to hear the aggravating and mitigating circumstances before making a decision on a punishment for the killing of 17 and wounding of 17 more at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2018.
One jury candidate, a probation officer, expressed a broader view.
“If we had better laws this may not have happened," he said.
A woman juror countered that sentiment.
"We're not here to debate [gun laws] today," she said.
One juror stated he was a pastor at a church attended by Tom and Gena Hoyer whose son Luke was among those killed.
That prospective juror survived to his admitted surprise.
"I would have thought I'd be gone," he said in court.
The pace picked up after COVID, unrelated illnesses, and other legal maneuverings frequently interrupted the proceedings since April 4.
Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer has expressed a desire to choose 12 jurors and eight alternates from a pool of 150, whittled down from more than 1,600.
She has scaled back her expectations to about 80 and nearly half of the 68 already selected have been chosen in the past two days.
While this increased efficiency shows signs of progress toward the judge’s goal, there is no jury selection scheduled for next week.
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A Daubert hearing is expected to follow to determine the expertise of witnesses that may be called to testify.
There are other anticipated motions the judge is expected to consider including one requesting jury selection be put on hold because recent mass shootings around the country may cause “bias and prejudice” against Cruz.
The judge had hoped to start the sentencing trial by the end of June, but that remains to be seen.