Judge in Parkland shooter case denies several defense motions


FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The judge proceeding over the upcoming penalty phase for confessed Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz signed an order Monday denying a defense motion for alternating jury questioning.

Earlier this month, during a Dec. 8 hearing, the defense for Cruz asked 17th Judicial Circuit Court Judge Elizabeth Scherer if they can take turns with the prosecution when asking potential jurors about their views on the death penalty. They argued that alternating questioning would be “the more fair method.”

Prosecutors countered that the defense is asking the court to “toss aside long-standing tradition” which allows the state to go first, similar to how the state goes first during opening statements and closing arguments. They also said switching back and forth could be confusing.

In her Dec. 27 order denying the defense request, Scherer wrote that the defendant, “is unable to demonstrate that there is any advantage gained by the State in examining jurors first,” adding, “This Court does not believe any such advantage exists” and “alternating who goes first will only cause confusion in the proceedings.”

On the outstanding question about whether the judge’s jury selection notes should be “preserved,” the judge stated in a separate order signed Monday that “this Court finds that its personal notes with regard to jury selection would be confidential and exempt under the Florida Rules of Judicial Administration, and as such, shall not be preserved or made a part of the record in this matter.”

Related Link: Dec. 8, 2021 hearing: Parkland killer defense seeks alternating juror questioning in penalty trial

In another separate order signed Monday, Scherer also denied a defense motion to video record victim impact statements.

Her order follows arguments made on this motion by both sides during a Dec. 13 pre-trial hearing.

The defense had stated that given there is a “high likelihood of intense emotion during the presentation of victim impact statements, a video recording of the testimony is the best evidence that can be produced in order to have meaningful appellate review.”

The state has argued that video recording victim impact testimony “will have a traumatic effect on these victims.”

In her order Monday denying the defense request, the judge wrote that “a proper record may be made without the need for a party video recording this testimony”.

Related Link: Dec. 13, 2021 hearing: Victim impact statements again focus of latest Parkland shooter hearing

The next court hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.

Read full orders below:

Order on Alternating Voir D... by < href="https://www.scribd.com/user/126868628/Amanda-Rojas#from_embed" style="text-decoration: underline;">Amanda Rojas

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."