Judge: Coronavirus to blame for Parkland shooting trial delay

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Broward County Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer said Monday the courthouse, which closed to the public March 16, is still not safe to begin jury selection in the trial of Nikolas Cruz, the confessed Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter.

During a virtual hearing held on Zoom, Scherer also said she was going to hold the next virtual status hearing at 11 a.m. on Aug. 25.

“We have to take it one day at a time,” Scherer said, adding that she was open to hearing about creative solutions.

Gabriel Ermine, a public defender representing Cruz, 21, said the coronavirus pandemic has also contributed to the delay of depositions and legal motions. The jail also hasn’t been safe for the experts who need to meet with Cruz, Ermine said.

“We are ready to have them go in once everything is safe,” Ermine said.

Lori Alhadeff, who lost her daughter Alyssa in the tragic shooting, said Monday that the pandemic is not an excuse for delaying things further.

“17 people died, and it’s been two years, and it’s unacceptable that the shooter has not been tried yet,” she said. “Using the coronavirus as an excuse as a mother as a parent of losing my daughter Alyssa I find it reprehensible.”

The 17 victims include seven 14-year-old students: Alhadeff, Martin Duque Anguiano, Cara Loughran, Gina Montalto, Jaime Guttenberg, Alaina Petty and Alexander Schachter.

Two 15-year-old students, Luke Hoyer and Peter Wang, 16-year-old student Carmen Schentrup, three 17-year-old students, Helena Ramsay, Nicholas Dworet and Joaquin Oliver, and 18-year-old student Meadow Pollack also died in the shooting.

Cruz, who did not attend the hearing on Monday, is also accused of killing Scott Beigel, 35, a teacher, Aaron Feis, 37, an assistant football coach, and Christopher Hixon, 49, the athletic director.

“We cannot begin to heal until the shooter is prosecuted,” said Alhadeff. “That building stands up because it is an active crime scene until a jury can walk through that building, so we need to start this as quickly as possible.”

Cruz, is facing 17 counts of first-degree murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the 2018 Valentine’s Day massacre.

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