Potential witness complications between overlapping trials for the Parkland school shooting has resulted in the rescheduling of one.
Broward Circuit Judge Martin Fein on Thursday morning reset the trial of former Broward Sheriff’s Deputy Scot Peterson for Feb. 27.
Peterson was the school resource deputy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who was criticized, fired, then charged for failing to confront Nikolas Cruz during the Feb. 14, 2018 massacre that killed 17 and wounded 17 students and staff.
“That’s the primary reason why the judge continued our case because he doesn’t want [the trials] going at the same time,” said defense attorney Mark Eiglarsh. “To do so would cause a conflict in being able to secure potential witnesses in our case while the Cruz case is going on.”
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Parkland School Shooting Trial
The Peterson trial was originally scheduled for September while the sentencing of Cruz is expected to run through October, both in the Broward County courthouse.
Eiglarsh said it would be difficult to depose potential witnesses for the Peterson trial if those witnesses may be testifying in the Cruz sentencing about the same time.
“While I feel for the victims [of the Cruz killings] and I understand their frustration, due process is paramount,” Eiglarsh said. “We don’t want to try this case twice in the unlikely event that there’s a conviction [of Peterson].”
School security camera video showed Peterson on his radio with a school custodian allegedly trying to locate the source of the gunfire they were hearing.
Peterson was later charged with 11 counts, including child neglect, culpable negligence, and perjury. If convicted, he faces a potential maximum prison sentence of nearly 100 years.
A civil lawsuit against Peterson filed by the parents of Meadow Pollack, one of the students killed in the tragedy, was upheld by an appeals court in 2019 after his lawyers argued it should be dismissed because of a law that shields government employees from personal liability.
The appeal court upheld the previous ruling from a Broward judge saying the law has an exemption for when employees “act in bad faith or with malicious purpose.”
During a news conference in Eiglarsh’s Fort Lauderdale office last August, Peterson proclaimed his innocence.
"There is no way in hell that I would sit there and allow those kids to die with me being next to another building and sitting there, no way, and anybody who knows me would tell you, that's not Deputy Peterson."
Peterson did not appear in person at Thursday’s court hearing.