Jury selection resumes in Nikolas Cruz’s death penalty trial

Jury selection in the death penalty trial of Nikolas Cruz continued on Monday in Broward County. Cruz plead guilty to 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder after the 2018 Valentine's Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The search for the jurors who will decide if Nikolas Cruz will be executed for the 2018 Valentine’s Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland continued on Monday in Broward County.

Cruz, 23, pleaded guilty in October to 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder. The jurors, who must be Broward County residents, will participate in the trial’s penalty phase.

Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer’s goal is to have 12 jurors in the box and eight alternate jurors ready to take their place if something goes wrong. The search for the jurors hasn’t been easy.

On Monday morning, one group of Broward County residents who responded to jury duty had to be screened for hardships that could prevent them from serving from June to September The court has screened more than 1,500 people and about 20% were qualified.

Those who did not have hardships answered a questionnaire in preparation for attorneys’ one-on-one questions about whether or not they are morally opposed to the death penalty. The first group lined up on Monday.

LEGAL EXPERTS

Rachel York Colangelo, national managing director of jury consulting at Magna Legal Services, said this phase of the jury selection process is known as “death qualification.”

“The law says that in order for a juror to make a determination as to whether or not, someone who has been found guilty should receive life in prison or the death penalty,” York Colangelo said. “They cannot be morally opposed to the death penalty, meaning the death penalty must be an option for that juror.”

J. David Bogenschutz, a Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney, said he prefers one-on-one interviews during jury selection.

“The obvious problem with ‘group interviews’ on the seminal issue in this proceeding and one as heart-rending as pronouncing a verdict of death for another citizen, is that it has a tendency to promote a potential juror’s difficulty in accepting that burden and being influenced by, or influencing, other jurors listening to them. You get a better read on each juror’s beliefs and/or prejudices on such a difficult issue if the only audience they have is the court personnel and themselves.”

STATUS

The court was in recess by Monday evening and jury selection was scheduled to resume at 8:45 a.m., on Tuesday.

The process is tedious. The jurors selected will listen to testimony and if they can’t agree on the death penalty, Scherer will have to sentence Cruz to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

6 p.m. report

The search for the jurors who will decide if Nikolas Cruz will be executed for the 2018 Valentine’s Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland continued on Monday in Broward County.

5 p.m. report

Jury selection in the death penalty trial of Nikolas Cruz continued on Monday in Broward County. Cruz plead guilty to 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder after the 2018 Valentine's Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

Noon report

Jury selection in the death penaly trial of Nikolas Cruz resumed on Monday in Broward County.

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About the Authors:

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."

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.