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Parkland school shooting trial won’t begin in January

Judge says Nikolas Cruz will face trial in summer ‘at some point’

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – A Broward County judge has delayed the trial of Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz.

Broward County Judge Elizabeth Scherer said Thursday there will be a March hearing to determine when to reset the trial.

Attorneys for Cruz were asking Scherer to delay the start of jury selection, originally scheduled for Jan. 27. They claim legal errors could occur that would result in a reversal upon appeal.

Scherer had been adamant that the trial start in January, but she acquiesced during Thursday’s hearing.

“I don’t want to hear come March that parties are busy, parties are doing other things,” Scherer said.

Assistant public defender Melisa McNeill said the attorneys assigned to the case are “doing everything we can to get this case ready for trial.”

Assistant state attorney Nicole Chiappone said prosecutors would not object if the trial starts a few months later in May, but “to just have it out there in infinity, that is unreasonable.”

Broward County Judge Elizabeth Scherer and defense attorneys listen as prosecutor Nicole Chiappone explains the state's position on the start of Nikolas Cruz's murder trial, Dec. 19, 2019, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Broward County Judge Elizabeth Scherer and defense attorneys listen as prosecutor Nicole Chiappone explains the state's position on the start of Nikolas Cruz's murder trial, Dec. 19, 2019, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. (WPLG)

“We would like to have this case resolved by the end of next year," McNeill said. “That is our goal. It has always been our goal.”

Scherer projected a summer start date.

“This case is going to be tried in summer, at some point,” Scherer said.

Cruz, 21, faces 17 counts of first-degree murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the 2018 Valentine’s Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Relatives of the victims were quick to respond to Scherer’s ruling.

“The longer it takes for the trial to start, the longer it takes for the MSD 17 to get justice,” Max Schachter, who lost his son Alex in the shooting, told Local 10 News.

Lori Alhadeff, who lost her daughter Alyssa, told Local 10 News: "It’s been the most painful 22 months of our lives waiting for justice to be served and our healing to begin. The delay extends our pain.”

Ryan Petty, whose daughter Alaina was killed in the shooting, had this to say: “Not surprised by today’s ruling. We knew this process would be long and grueling, but it will eventually lead to justice for our loved ones.”

Debbie Hixon’s husband Chris was the school’s athletic director. He was killed while confronting the shooter.

“Personally, I think they’re dragging some stuff out on purpose,” Hixon said.

Hixon said she’s disappointed but wants to make sure her husband and the other victims get the justice they deserve, even if it takes a little longer.

“I just want it to be done right the first time,” she said.

Cruz faces the death penalty if convicted, although his lawyers said he will plead guilty in exchange for a life prison sentence.