Judge refuses to delay Nikolas Cruz’s sentencing trial again

Broward County Circuit Court Judge Elizabeth Scherer talks to attorneys on Tuesday in court. (Copyright 2021 by WPLG Local10.com - All rights reserved.)

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The lead prosecutor in the trial of Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz told a judge on Tuesday that attorneys are not ready for the penalty phase to begin on Feb. 21.

It had been scheduled to begin in January before. Broward County State Attorney Michael Satz said it was in part because he received a witness list from the defense on Friday with 8 additional expert witnesses and 21 lay witnesses who will need to be deposed.

“We have not received information from 10 of the experts,” Katz said in court.

Broward County Circuit Court Judge Elizabeth Scherer responded swiftly. She ordered the prosecution and the defense to figure it out and be ready to start jury selection on Feb. 21.

“I have given you all as much time as I think appropriate, this case needs to move forward, the jurors have been summoned ... You are going to have to make it work,” Scherer said.

The first week of preliminary jury selection will run three days, Monday through Wednesday, so this will allow both parties to wrap up the pending depositions on Thursday and Friday, Scherer said.

Assistant State Attorney Jeff Marcus said the discovery phase is ongoing and the prosecution supports the court’s efforts to get the case done as quickly as possible, but the state has been wanting to do that for years.

“We understand there has been a pandemic that has been largely in the way of getting this stuff quickly, but we just want the court to understand what is left to be done by the state and the defense,” Marcus said.

The Feb. 14, 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School killed 14 students and three school employees. Cruz pleaded guilty on Oct. 20 to 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder.

The 12 jurors will determine if Cruz, 23, should be sentenced to death or life in prison without parole. There is an evidentiary hearing on Jan. 24 to discuss two pending motions.

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."