FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – After a day of massive progress, jury selection in the Parkland school shooter’s death penalty trial appeared to be coming to an end this week in Fort Lauderdale. There were 12 jurors — seven men and five women — out of a pool of 53 Broward County residents by Tuesday evening.
The group included a probation officer, a legal assistant, a medical claims adjuster, a librarian, and a supervisor at Walmart. Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer said she also wants eight to 12 alternates on standby. Attorneys had a list of eight by the end of the day.
Attorney David Weinstein is not involved in the case, but he has been following it closely. He said the proposed jurors’ list isn’t final. Both the defense and the prosecution teams have 10 chances each to object to a proposed juror without having to provide a reason. The prosecution had six left and the defense had two.
“A back-strike is a tactic used by trial attorneys to strike a juror that they have previously seated when they believe that a juror who is farther down the panel is better suited to their point of view,” said Weinstein, a partner at Jones Walker Waechter’s litigation practice group in Miami.
The process will continue Wednesday. Scherer asked the remaining jurors to return to court at 1:30 p.m. She also said she hopes to swear them in by Wednesday evening, so attorneys can deliver their opening statements on July 18. The final group of 12 in the jury box will have to decide if Nikolas Cruz should be executed for his crimes.
Cruz, 23, pleaded guilty to 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in October. He was 19 when he used an AR-15 rifle to shoot at students and teachers on Feb. 14, 2018, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Jury selection began on April 4. More than 1,500 Broward County residents on jury duty answered Scherer’s questions about hardships that would keep them from serving as jurors for about four months.
Those who didn’t have any hardships returned to face attorneys’ one-on-one questions about their views on the death penalty. The pool narrowed and the individual interviews continued with more questions on fairness.
The jurors will have to review the evidence, visit the school building, and listen to testimony and closing statements. If they don’t agree that Cruz deserves the death penalty, Scherer will only have the option to sentence him to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
More about Tuesday’s 12 proposed jurors
Juror 1 is a man who works for the city of Coral Gables. He said he owns one handgun. He also said his brother is a police officer and his mother is a licensed mental health counselor.
Juror 2 is a man who works as a financial sector executive. He moved to Florida from Boston about a year ago, and he has about two decades of experience in his field. He served in the French military and doesn’t own a handgun.
Juror 3 is a man who works as a probation officer. He also has experience as a paralegal executive assistant for a personal injury firm. He doesn’t own a handgun.
Juror 4 is a man who works as a stocking supervisor for Walmart. He said his cousin was in a class with Cruz before the shooting. He said his uncle is a psychologist.
Juror 5 is a man who works as a computer technician in Miami-Dade County. He said he has more than 10 years of experience in his field and has serviced law firms. He is a father of three.
Juror 6 is a woman who works as a medical claims adjuster in Miami-Dade County. She has also worked in banking and in the office of a criminal defense attorney.
Juror 7 is a woman who has worked as a librarian for about four years. She has also worked in purchasing for the city of Coconut Creek, in a church, and in banking as a consumer lender. She said she has benefited from mental health counseling in the past.
Juror 8 is a woman who works in human resources and has about two decades of experience. She said she worked as an X-ray technician when she lived in Michigan and was in college. She moved to Broward County in 2019. She is a board member of Mental Health America of Southeast Florida, a non-profit organization. She owns a handgun.
Juror 9 is a woman who works as a legal assistant and has experience with prosecutors. She said she has considered going to law school. She said she has benefited from mental health counseling.
Juror 10 is a woman who retired in 2018 after working as the vice president of an insurance brokerage firm. She had about three decades of experience in the field. She said she was the victim of a home invasion.
Juror 11 is a man who leads the international finance team of a bank. He said he owns two handguns and an AR-15 rifle. He said he has two acquaintances with ties to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Juror 12 is a man who has worked as an immigration officer since 2018. He said he served in the U.S. military from 2013 to 2016 and then took time off to do “hippie stuff.”
6 p.m. report