Video of Nikolas Cruz jail attack debated ahead of trial

Trial in battery case set to begin Monday, separate from proceedings in Parkland shooting

A trial is scheduled to begin Monday in an alleged battery committed by confessed Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz on a Broward jail guard in 2018. Defense attorneys say the surveillance clip of the incident is not complete and thus shouldn't be allowed as part of that case.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Nikolas Cruz was in a Fort Lauderdale courtroom Tuesday for an evidentiary hearing related to the case involving charges he attacked a jail guard in November 2018, nine months after the Parkland shooting.

The defense wants the judge to consider throwing that case out, or to dismiss arguably the star witness — surveillance video of the attack — arguing that the Broward Sheriff’s Office did not preserve “all audio and video recordings of Mr. Cruz’s pod” and “all of the video of the location of the incident.”

They argue that those recordings were timely requested and that it “constitutes denial of due process” for a fair trial.

The state is working to counter the defense argument. Through cross-examination of defense witnesses, they aim to show that BSO preserved what they believed had been requested.

“As I saw it then, or interpreted it then, [the request] was to preserve all of the video of the incident, not all of the video available for November 13th,” BSO Col. James Reyes said on the stand in response to questioning from defense attorney Jaclyn Erica Broudy.

The trial in the jail attack case is scheduled to start Monday, making this a high-stakes evidentiary hearing. Cruz, who has confessed to the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2018, still has to stand trial in that case but will first be tried in the jail incident.

Former state and federal prosecutor David Weinstein reviewed the defense’s motion and said: “If the defense can persuade the judge that BSO intentionally ignored the defense’s request and knowingly destroyed the full 24 hours of surveillance, or only preserved portions that would benefit their version of the event, the judge could have a basis to dismiss the entire battery case as a sanction for their bad faith destruction of evidence. A lesser sanction would be to prevent the prosecution from introducing the tape at trial.”

Weinstein, who is not involved with the case, added: “The video that has been preserved, which the state wants to present to the jury, is the best evidence outside of testimony from the defendant or BSO personnel as to what happened during the altercation. If the judge allows the prosecution to move forward, but without the tape, then the evidence would be limited to the testimony of BSO personnel and the defendant.”

A brief pause in the hearing happened after an attorney representing Cruz asked the judge if Cruz’s left hand, which is his writing hand, could be removed from his handcuffs so he could take notes. The request was granted.

The judge said Tuesday afternoon that she will hopefully have a decision on the motion on Wednesday.

About the Author:

Christina returned to Local 10 in 2019 as a reporter after covering Hurricane Dorian for the station. She is an Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist and previously earned an Emmy Award while at WPLG for her investigative consumer protection segment "Call Christina."