Parkland Shooting

Expert Witness Quizzed, Evidence Challenged in Parkland School Shooter Hearing

Tug of war begins over what kind of evidence will be allowed for jurors to see

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Prosecutors plan to present grisly evidence to jurors tasked with making a life-or-death decision for convicted Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz, and his defense team is trying to block some of it.

The state intends to introduce autopsy and crime scene photographs and police body-worn camera video of the carnage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2018.

During a pre-sentencing hearing Wednesday, the defense team took issue with potential evidence that included Cruz’s history of animal abuse, online searches for child pornography, racial slurs, and swastikas drawn on his boots and backpack and etched on the mass murder weapon, an AR-15 assault-style rifle.

Lead defense attorney Melisa McNeill argued some of the state's evidence was irrelevant and was only designed to prejudice the 12 jurors and 10 alternates.

“There is no evidence that these crimes were sexually or racially motivated,” McNeill wrote in a motion to Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer.  

State expert witness Dr. Michael Brannon, a psychologist, reviewed records of interviews with Cruz who claimed to hear the voices of demons.

“I worship the devil. I hate God and Jesus and Christianity. The anti-Christ told me,” Brannon quoted Cruz as saying in the depositions.

Cruz allegedly referred to the voice in his head as “Swas,” short for swastika.

“Honestly, he wasn’t psychotic, and I took it as kind of nonsense,” Brannon said, on the witness stand Wednesday.

“This is a fantasy. He’s uncomfortable with where he’s at. He’s uncomfortable with being locked down, with being in jail,” Brannon said. “This is somebody who absolutely, 110%, has no capacity or understanding of how to deal with any negative affect, particularly anger.”

Brannon said Cruz appears to have an anti-social personality disorder, attention deficit disorder, a learning disorder and borderline personality trait.

The 23-year-old pleaded guilty last October to 17 murder and 17 attempted murder charges.

Opening statements in the sentencing phase of his trial are scheduled to begin July 18.

Click here for complete coverage of the Parkland school shooting sentencing

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