Pandemic disrupts death penalty case against Nikolas Cruz again

Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer paused phase two of jury selection in the death penalty case against Nikolas Cruz on Monday afternoon in Fort Lauderdale.

PARKLAND, Fla. – Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer paused phase two of jury selection in the death penalty case against Nikolas Cruz on Monday afternoon in Fort Lauderdale.

Scherer announced a member of Cruz’s defense team was ill, so the one-on-one interviews of potential jurors who were cleared for hardships during phase one would have to stop.

“Hopefully, we are at the tail end of a pandemic, but there is still many people that are getting sick,” Scherer said in court.

Cruz plead guilty to 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in October after admitting to using an AR-15 during the 2018 Valentine’s Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

The search for the 12 jurors who will have to decide if Cruz should be executed for his crimes continued. Scherer also wants six to eight alternate jurors to be ready to take the place of any of the 12 jurors.

Assistant State Attorney Michael Satz and Assistant Public Defender Melisa McNeill agreed a teacher’s fashion choice disrupted the jury selection process Monday. About a dozen potential jurors were dismissed as a result.

“That’s better than having an appellate issue that costs us the case to get reversed,” McNeill said.

A potential juror wore a T-shirt with the colors of the school and a “Teachers Strong” message with the hashtags “Never Again” and “MSD Strong.” The Broward teacher was dismissed on over a medical hardship.

Scherer said phase one screenings for hardships will resume on Tuesday morning.

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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.