Heated exchanges in Parkland shooter trial jury selection

Elizabeth Scherer is a Broward County Circuit Court judge of the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit Court in Florida. She was appointed by Gov. Rick Scott on Dec. 14, 2012. She is overseeing the Parkland school shooting case. (WPLG)

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – “I would be lying to the court and I would be lying to myself.” In the afternoon panel, two potential jurors said they now believe they could not be fair and impartial. One said hard to set aside the severity of case and the number of lives altered.

Another potential juror said, after giving it some thought since Phase 2, when attorneys explored their death penalty views, he now does have an opinion: “My opinion is that I don’t see myself ever voting for somebody, sitting over there, getting a life sentence”

“What really confuses me is that it only takes one to get him a life sentence but it takes 12 to get him death,” he said in reference to the law which states the 12-member jury must be unanimous in choosing death, so if just one juror votes for life the shooter gets life.

Both those men were excused from the case.

Also excused was an unemployed potential juror who apparently went to lunch at one point with another potential juror, an airline pilot, and bantered about his curiosity about the defense’s mitigation evidence. Potential jurors are under a court order not to discuss the case.

The pilot said during individual questioning, when asked for his point of view: “My point of view is that he talks a lot.” He said he ignored him because talking about the case “didn’t feel right.” Defense moved to strike the pilot for cause and Judge Elizabeth Scherer saying he followed her instruction of not engaging.

A tense moment when defense attorney David Wheeler told potential jurors: “I don’t know about you but the case has given him ‘PTSD.’ " The state objected with prosecutor Jeff Marcus telling the judge it is a “highly inappropriate thing to say to the jury”…

Following a sidebar, the judge told potential jurors to disregard hearing anything about “PTSD.” Wheeler’s comment happened as he was exploring what impact a jury visit to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School 1200 building, preserved as a crime scene, could have on the potential jurors, if they think could still give “meaningful consideration” to evidence about the shooter’s background after a visit.

Meantime, while court set a July 6 start to trial testimony on Wednesday the judge was already telegraphing the date could be pushed back. The reason was partly due to scheduling demands—i.e. a complex evidentiary hearing plus final jury selection needed to wrap up next week before testimony starts.

Court is in recess until Monday. It is anticipated that’s when both sides will litigate an issue that just flared up about a pending ruling related to evidence involving swastikas. The defense said they didn’t ask potential jurors about impact of swastikas because a ruling was pending.

The state said the defense knew the ruling was pending and could have either pressed the judge to issue a ruling or decide to ask about it even with a ruling pending. “They could have brought it up.” Scherer agreed and then as prosecutors and the defense had a spirited exchange, Scherer cut them off.

“Lawyers from both sides,” she said, “stop talking, we are in recess.”


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."