parkland school shooting

Opening Statements to Begin July 6 for Parkland School Shooter Sentencing

Jury of 12, and up to eight alternates, to be seated June 28, judge said

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Opening statements in the sentencing trial of convicted Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz are scheduled to begin July 6.

Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer announced the date after three months of jury selection and three previous scheduling attempts.

Nearly 40 potential jurors were screened in the third phase of the selection process Wednesday.

A handful were excused because of illness or other hardships such as losing a job or finding a new job that would disrupt their commitment to a sentencing that’s expected to run through the end of October.

The ongoing uncertainty clearly frustrated the judge who has overseen the paring of more than 1,600 jurors down to about 80.

The final group of 40 is expected to be questioned Thursday about their work, backgrounds, feelings, and their ability to make a life-or-death decision for the 23-year-old.

The defense team cautioned jurors they might be exposed to unwanted public and media attention and would have to give up their cellphones during deliberations.

Jurors also may have to view gory photographs and visit the scene of the deadly mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School as part of the sentencing proceedings.

State prosecutors objected to the defense team's characterizations. The defense only needs one juror to vote for a life sentence for Cruz to avoid death row.

Judge Scherer plans to have a dozen jurors and up to eight alternates seated Tuesday afternoon to hear opening statements a week later on July 6.

Cruz pleaded guilty in October to 17 murders and 17 attempted murders for the mass shooting on Feb. 14, 2018.

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