Parkland victim files motion to disqualify prosecutors, defense attorneys in Cruz case

Lawyers say county, defenders' involvement in Promise program is conflict


PARKLAND, Fla. – Lawyers working on behalf of one of the victims of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have filed a motion to disqualify the prosecutors and the defense team in the case against gunman Nikolas Cruz.

Alex Arreaza, a lawyer for shooting victim Anthony Borges, said the Broward County state attorney's office and the public defender's office, which is representing Cruz, both have conflicts of the interest that could jeopardize the case.

Legal experts contacted by Local 10 News said it was unlikely that the motion would be successful.

Borges was one of more than a dozen people who were wounded in the shooting, which left 17 people dead. He is currently in the intensive care unit at Broward Health Medical Center. 

Arreaza said the prosecution's decision to pursue the death penalty will heighten scrutiny of the case and the parties involved. The Borges family said it wants to avoid a prolonged legal process.

Arreaza argues that the conflict of interest stems from the fact that the state attorney's office and public defenders Howard Finkelstein and Gordon Weekes were involved in Broward County's Preventing Recidivism through Opportunities, Mentoring, Interventions, Support & Education Program or PROMISE.

The program is designed to allow students who commit minor crimes at school to receive counseling and other treatment rather than go to jail.

Some conservative commentators have criticized the program, which relaxed disciplinary standards, and it said allowed Cruz's behavior to go unchecked. They believe Cruz would not have had access to weapons if authorities had pursued criminal charges rather than conflict resolution methods that did not involve the legal system.

Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie, however, has said that Cruz, although frequently disciplined at school, was not part of the PROMISE program.

Arreaza recommends in his motion that another district's state attorney's office prosecute Cruz. For the defense, Arreaza suggests the Office of Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counsel, 4th District, a state legal aid agency based in West Palm Beach.

Read the motions: