parkland school shooting

Opening Statements May Be Delayed Again in Parkland School Shooter's Sentencing

Defense team asked for July 11 start but judge recessed without ruling

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For a fifth time since jury selection began three months ago, the start date for opening statements may be rescheduled in the sentencing of convicted Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz.

Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer picked July 6 on Wednesday but hinted on Thursday she might have to postpone it again citing new conflicts with some prospective jurors’ vacation schedules.

The last group of nearly 40 finalists was questioned Thursday about their personal background, work history, gun ownership, any prior dealings with police or the justice system, and whether they could maintain their impartiality during proceedings expected to last through October.

The sentencing trial of convicted Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz is scheduled to begin July 6.

The defense team focused on whether prospective jurors could stomach gruesome autopsy and crime scene photographs and/or a tour of blood-stained classrooms at Marjory Stonemen Douglas High School where 17 students and staff were killed and 17 more were wounded.

One woman was a teacher in that crime scene building for one of her four years at the school, but she left in 2016, before the mass shooting on Feb. 14, 2018.

“I would do my best to follow my oath [to be fair and impartial],” she said.

One man said he had issues with the way the Broward County court system handles cases.

“I don’t think that they’re fair. It’s a revolving door,” he said. “People that shouldn’t be in jail are in jail for other reasons, maybe drug abuse, maybe mental illness.”

When the judge inquired why the juror felt that way, he cited his stepdaughter’s past incarceration for a theft, and he could not reconcile Cruz getting the same punishment.

“I don’t see myself ever voting for [Cruz] sitting over there to get a life sentence, let alone 17 [life sentences],” he said.

The defense attorneys also asked jury candidates if they wanted to hear Cruz testify and if they would hold it against him if he did not. State prosecutors objected.

A few potential jurors were concerned about the unwanted public and media attention they might attract.

The judge said their names would be in public court records but the news media have not identified them on camera or in newspapers.

A final jury panel of 12, with about eight alternates, will be chosen June 28, Judge Scherer said.

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