Jury selection entered the next phase of sentencing for convicted mass murderer Nikolas Cruz but it bogged down again.
Four prospective jurors were questioned one at a time Monday morning and it averaged more than an hour per person.
Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer said that was too slow.
“With the number of jurors we have to question, it would take us 9.4 weeks, working five-days-a-week, 9-hour days to get through all of the jurors at this pace,” she said, before the late lunch break.
“We don’t have that much time,” she added. So she proposed screening jurors in groups.
When the jury questioning resumed about 3 p.m., two men and four women entered the courtroom at once.
The first to be questioned was juror five who admitted to having “a bit of bias.”
Parkland School Tragedy
“[In] my honest opinion, I don't think I can [be impartial],” she said.
Juror eight wondered if she could be impartial because she attended a high school when the shootings happened at Marjory Stoneman Douglas in Parkland on Feb. 14, 2018.
Juror ten expressed frustration with having to wait all day to be questioned but understood the importance of the decision she might be asked to make.
The remaining three jurors also said they would have to hear both sides before making a life-or-death decision.
“There’s always a story behind it,” said juror nine. “After hearing the story, you have a better understanding [of whether] this deserves the death penalty [or] this one does not.”
Another group of seven was brought into court about 5 p.m. because they had been waiting all day, the judge said. It took another 90 minutes to get through them.
Lawyers for both sides want to know how each person will weigh the aggravating and mitigating circumstances surrounding the mass shooting.
Does the killing of 17 and wounding of 17 more outweigh Cruz’s tumultuous childhood and mental and emotional health leading up to the massacre?
It would only take one juror to disagree with the death penalty for Cruz to spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Nearly 400 jurors were chosen from more than 1,600 screened in the first phase that began April 4.
They were split into seven groups designated A through G, initially, but their numbers have been reduced further through questionnaires they filled out.
The sentencing trial is expected to last through October once 12 jurors and eight alternates are chosen. The dozen will have to decide whether Cruz lives or dies for his crimes.
The jury selection resumes at 8:45 a.m. Tuesday.
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