Defense, state debate over what impact Texas school shooting could have on jury selection for Parkland case

‘I am in physical pain about what they are going through right now,’ Parkland father says about families of Texas victims

Nikolas Cruz's defense attorney said they cannot ignore the shooting at an elementary school in Texas.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The defense team for Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz and the state debated Wednesday morning over what impact the school shooting in Texas could have on the jury selection process for the case.

“We have to find a way to address this,” lead defense attorney Melisa McNeill said. “We cannot ignore this.”

McNeill asked Broward County Judge Elizabeth Scherer for clearance to ask questions of prospective jurors related to Tuesday’s deadly elementary school shooting in Texas.

“I think people who maybe could have sat yesterday, could not today, understandably so,” she said.

Prosecutor Carolyn McCann, however, objected to any questions that go beyond a general inquiry both sides already agreed to about whether a prospective juror can be fair and impartial on sentencing in a case involving young victims.

“Can’t ask something specific about Texas because there have been 27 school shootings so far this year,” McCann said. “He is not special, not unique. He is a murderer.”

“It will happen again, unfortunately,” she added. “We can’t break and edit the questions every time a devastating event happens.”

With guilt already established, the question for these prospective jurors, she said, remains whether they can put their personal bias and feelings aside.

The defense explained why they want to ask about the possible impact of publicity of the Texas school shooting.

“This is different because it was an elementary school and different because it happened yesterday,” McNeill said. “This is the first case where a shooter has survived and is going to trial. We are the first ones.”

“This community can, unfortunately, identify with what happened in Texas,” McNeil added.

The judge decided to allow general questions related to identifying if bias exists and can or cannot be set aside related to school shootings.

“But I don’t want you to specifically mention what happened yesterday,” Scherer said.

Tom Hoyer, whose son Luke was killed in the Parkland shooting, attended Wednesday’s hearing.

“I am in physical pain about what they are going through right now,” he said about the Texas shooting. “It is surreal that those families are starting this journey and we might be getting closer to the end of ours.”

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."