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Teen too traumatized to testify at Parkland school shooting deposition

‘She’s not in any condition or state of mind to discuss the facts,' attorney for 17-year-old says

Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz listens to his attorney before a hearing, Jan. 22, 2010, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz listens to his attorney before a hearing, Jan. 22, 2010, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. (WPLG)

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – A teenager who was traumatized after the Parkland school shooting doesn’t want to give a deposition to attorneys preparing for trial.

The attorney for the 17-year-old girl, identified in a motion for protective order only as “A.P.,” said during a hearing Wednesday that his client’s mental health is at stake after the February 2018 mass shooting that killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Jay Cohen represents the teenager and another reluctant witness who were subpoenaed to give depositions in preparation for the upcoming murder trial of Nikolas Cruz.

According to a motion seeking protective order, teacher Felicia Burgin “suffered significant stress, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health issues” after the massacre.

The motion argued that attending a deposition would cause Burgin “a regression in any progress she has made over the last several months of treatment.”

However, attorneys for both parties told Broward County Judge Elizabeth Scherer as the hearing began that they have made arrangements to conduct the deposition at Cohen’s office.

“We’ve worked that out,” Cohen said.

As for the teen, Cohen said, “rendering any testimony regarding this case will be severely detrimental and damaging to her mental health and carries with it a strong likelihood of eviscerating any progress that has been made so far through the counseling.”

“She’s not in any condition or state of mind to discuss the facts,” Cohen added.

Broward County Judge Elizabeth Scherer listens to arguments from assistant public defender Gabe Ermine (far left), attorney Jay Cohen (middle) and State Attorney Michael Satz (far right) during a hearing in the case of Nikolas Cruz, Jan. 22, 2020, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Broward County Judge Elizabeth Scherer listens to arguments from assistant public defender Gabe Ermine (far left), attorney Jay Cohen (middle) and State Attorney Michael Satz (far right) during a hearing in the case of Nikolas Cruz, Jan. 22, 2020, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. (WPLG)

Cohen couldn’t say when she'd ready to answer questions about the shooting.

“If she ever reaches that point where, according to her professionals, that she can sit and be questioned about these horrific facts and circumstances without her regressing in any manner or placing her at risk, I will be more than happy to present her in some format,” Cohen said.

Broward County State Attorney Michael Satz, who is personally prosecuting the case, said he planned to call upon her as a witness in court. But, Satz said, he had “no problem” delaying her deposition.

“I think it’s much better for, I think, everyone involved if you all try to work these things out together,” Scherer said.

She suggested that the attorneys consider breaking up the depositions to alleviate any undue stress on Cohen’s client.

Cruz, who sat in court during Wednesday’s hearing, faces the death penalty if convicted.