Parkland school shooting becomes issue in trial of men accused of killing deputy

Judge asks jurors whether shooting has affected their ability to be impartial

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – During the trial of three men accused of killing a Broward County sheriff's deputy in 2006, a Broward County judge asked jurors Tuesday whether the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School had affected their ability to judge the case fairly.

“Have any of you watched the news coverage? Does any of that influence your feelings, positions and abilities to be fair?” Backman asked the jurors.

The judge asked jurors whether they had children who attended the Parkland school, whether
they knew any of the victims and whether they knew gunman, Nikolas Cruz.

The jurors told the judge that the shooting would not affect their deliberations and that they did not have a personal connection to the massacre. 

Cruz has confessed to killing 17 people and wounding more than a dozen others at Stoneman Douglas on Feb. 14.

In recent days, the Broward County Sheriff's Office has come under intense criticism over its initial response to the shootings and how it handled complaints about Cruz before the killings.

The armed school resource officer at the school resigned last week after Sheriff Scott Israel said he did not engage Cruz during the shooting.

The Sheriff's Office has also come under fire about how it handled complaints about Cruz before the shooting. Israel said the Sheriff's Office received at least 18 calls about Cruz, but none of those encounters led to an arrest or to the confiscation of Cruz's weapons.

More than 70 Republican state lawmakers have called for Israel's suspension, and Gov. Rick Scott has launched an independent investigation into the agency.

Tuesday marked the beginning of what’s expected to be two weeks worth of closing arguments from the state and defense. 

After the concerns about impartiality were addressed, Broward County State Attorney Michael Satz began his closing statements in the shooting death of Deputy Brian Tephford. 

"This was a deadly, brutal, ruthless ambush, and it was done in such a calculated fashion. It was executed in such a way that these police officers, these deputies had absolutely no chance,” Satz said. 

Tephford was shot dead during a traffic stop outside an apartment complex in Tamarac. 

His backup, Deputy Corey Carbocci, was shot five times, but survived.

In June, he testified about how he had not seen the gunmen until it was too late.

“I could see the muzzle flashes coming from the gun as he was firing. I could feel several rounds hit me in the chest," Carbocci said. 

Prosecutors said Eloyn Ingraham called Bernard Forbes and Andre Delancy to ambush the deputies.

The defense, however, noted that Carbocci could not place the men at the scene of the shooting. 

“They were attacked because they are police officers doing their duty,” Satz said.

Each of the accused has a different lawyer and each lawyer will have a chance to deliver a closing statement. If convicted, the men face the death penalty.