How emotionally and mentally stable was Nikolas Cruz growing up and was it a factor in the deadly Parkland school shooting?
That’s what state and defense lawyers debated Tuesday to determine what expert testimony jurors will get to hear after opening statements, which are expected next Monday.
The defense team argued the convicted killer’s mental disabilities are among the mitigating factors that outweigh any aggravating factors that would warrant the death penalty.
A defense expert witness, Dr. Natalie Novick Brown, used a test called the Vineland method to gauge Cruz’s childhood development and found that, among other indicators, he did not know more than 50 words by the age of 12.
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“That is completely absurd,” said Broward assistant state attorney Jeff Marcus.
A Cruz family friend said, during depositions, that Cruz knew plenty of words at a young age.
The defense did not want the jury to hear that testimony in court, claiming Marcus was interpreting the Vineland findings without having the expertise of Dr. Novick Brown.
Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer ruled the in favor of the prosecution.
So, jurors may get to hear testimony indicating Cruz was not as intellectually disabled as the defense is trying to establish.
Cruz pleaded guilty, last October, to 17 murders and 17 attempted murders at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2018.
The jury will be asked to make a life-or-death decision at the end of this sentencing trial that is expected to run through October.
It would only take one vote against the death penalty to send the 23-year-old Cruz to prison for life.