Plenty at stake in Parkland shooter trial and shouldn’t be rushed, lawyers say

Both the prosecution and the defense have an interest in getting jury selection right the first time.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The long slow process of picking a jury in the life or death trial of Nikolas Cruz continues on April 25, but now we’re hearing there could be another delay before testimony begins.

The judge, prosecution, and defense are all trying to get on the same page for the next steps in jury selection.

Legal analyst David Bogenschutz says listening to all parties involved comes down to this:

“I think they are all trying to come together to figure out what is the best way to do this. Let’s do what’s fair, let’s do what’s right and make sure we don’t have to do this again. This is a good example to look at and understand this system may plod along a little bit but in the end, knock on wood, it works and the trick is to make it works the first time.”

The questionnaire that potential jurors who are called back will be given cues up the issues, explains Bogenschutz.

And the attorneys are seeking clarification on how much time they will get for more probative questioning.

Prosecutor Carolyn McCann tells Judge Elizabeth Scherer: “Following the law has everything to do with the death penalty. That takes a while to explain. There are nuances to it. A case can turn on a word and how it is said and how it is interpreted and it can take time. I am just asking the court to keep an open mind.”

Court hearing video of the events described in this story can be seen below:

oward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer is presiding over Cruz’s capital trial.

Judge: “Absolutely, but . . .”

McCann: “Because to try and do this in the timeframe in which we have there is a real possibility that it is not going to work in the timeframe that we all wanted to because believe me your honor we all want this to go.”

The judge indicates that she also has an eye on efficiency.

McCann: “And death qualification can’t be done efficiently under the best of circumstances . . .This is really important. Nobody wants a delay in these proceedings but I cannot emphasize enough how important time matters and being careful with how we do jury qualification . . . So, efficiency will work in some situations but unfortunately, it doesn’t work with death qualification.”

Bogenschutz, who is not involved in the case agrees:

“I think she is right in cases like this, efficiency has to be trumped by what is fair and impartial for everybody to be satisfied and be comfortable with the jurors they have.”

At the hearing on Wednesday, the judge heard from both sides arguments from the attorneys about perhaps pushing back the start of trial testimony from May 31 to June 13. She said she would take it under advisement and issue a ruling. The ruling is still pending.

As far as Scherer’s overall decision making, Bogenschutz had this to say:

“I doubt that many judges on the face of the planet have judicial experience with this kind of a case. It is difficult for me to conceive of a case in Broward which had the same type of impact. Judge Scherer probably has as much judicial experience as 95% of the judges in a case that involve first-degree murder. How many have experience with 17 first-degree murders and the answer is probably zero, and if you look across the country very few cases have actually been to trial on these multiple killing cases.”

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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."