FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Last Monday when the lead defense attorney was absent from court for the jury selection in the penalty phase of the Parkland school shooting capital, the judge announced that proceedings would be postponed by one week.
Now it looks as if there will be another week of delay.
Melisa McNeill has been absent since last week. Last Monday, Judge Elizabeth Scherer could be heard saying in open court: “Is she going to test today?” before they went into a private session. However, it was never revealed the cause of McNeill’s absence; the court did not confirm that McNeill was out because of COVID-19.
Defense attorney Tamara Curtis told Scherer when she addressed the court Monday morning: “We are very hopeful that we will be able to resume on Monday.”
Scherer responded: “Monday? Not tomorrow for sure? OK. OK.”
On Monday, however, the last juror of the 11 that both the defense and prosecution had said was prematurely dismissed during Week One of jury selection appeared in court. On Day 2 of jury selection, 11 prospective jurors were excused after they said they could not “follow the law.” Scherer erroneously dismissed them before attorneys had a chance to question them.
No. 11 was dismissed from the case on Monday after he told the judge that as a self-employed software engineer serving on a trial expected to last four to five months would be a financial hardship because he would lose clients.
That means of the 11, all but one was excused for hardships. The one juror that was not excused will be called back for Round Two.
Also on Monday, Scherer extended the amount of time the trial could last. It is the first time, when addressing the prospective juror, that she indicated testimony, which is expected to begin in June could stretch possibly through October.
Scherer had previously told panels of prospective jurors during Phase One that the trial would most likely run through September.