The sentencing trial of convicted Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz has returned to questioning prospective jurors about their opinions on the death penalty and life in prison.
This is the second phase in the jury selection process that has been repeatedly interrupted by illness and legal arguments.
The defense team’s expert death penalty lawyer, Casey Secor, was back in court after a required five-day COVID quarantine that ended Monday.
There have been other COVID cases and un-related illnesses on the defense team, judge’s staff and among potential jurors since the selection process began April 4.
Ten prospective jurors who favored either the death penalty or a life sentence were excused Tuesday.
"You don't have to convince me [to choose a life sentence] but you have to tell me why the death penalty is not the right thing to do," said one woman.
Some of those who appeared unaffected by the high-publicity case were also excused.
"This is uncharted waters for me," one man said. "My job as a juror [is] to listen to everything good, bad and ugly."
The 15 jury candidates who survived the Tuesday screening bring the total to 50 chosen during this second round.
Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer is aiming for a pool of 150 from which to choose 12 jurors and eight alternates.
Nearly 400 of more than 1,600 people survived the first phase of questioning.
It focused on scheduling, availability and other hardships that would prevent people from serving on a jury for a sentencing that’s expected to run through the end of October.
Some of the surviving jurors have since had employment, family care, or other hardships that excluded them from further participating in the selection process. A few just haven’t shown up in court.
Jury selection resumes Wednesday but there’s no indication of when the oft-delayed start of the actual sentencing trial will begin.
The judge had hoped to begin in late May, then late June, but there was no court session last week and there is no jury selection scheduled next week.
Then there is the issue of other mass shootings in the news.
The defense team filed a motion Friday seeking to put the jury selection on hold due to the “wave of emotion surrounding the recent mass shootings,” in Uvalde, Buffalo, and elsewhere that may cause a “bias and prejudice” against Cruz.
The judge has yet to address that motion.
Cruz pled guilty to 17 charges of first-degree murder and 17 of attempted murder following the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on Feb. 14, 2018.
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