Judge denies Parkland shooter defense team’s request to bar state from asking certain questions

Days away from opening statements, we're learning more about Finai Browd, a person the defense had a psychologist interview.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Days before opening statements were set to begin in the penalty phase of the trial of Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz, defense attorneys tried unsuccessfully Tuesday to get Judge Elizabeth Scherer to bar prosecutors from using questions from a psychological assessment during the trial.

During Tuesday’s pre-trial hearing, we learned more about Finai Browd, a person the defense had a psychologist interview.

“So because Nick’s parents are deceased, one of the people that this psychologist talked to was a family friend (Browd) who’s known Nick since he was very little,” defense attorney Casey Secor said.

Secor said the defense had the interview conducted in an attempt to find out what Cruz was like at different points of his life.

The defense says a psychologist used an assessment tool and made a two-pronged argument: That the assessment questions be kept confidential since they were copyright protected by the publisher and that the court prohibit Assistant State Attorney Jeff Marcus from asking any more direct questions from the copyrighted assessment tool during witness depositions, because he’s a lawyer, not a psychologist.

“Untrained individuals are not supposed to cherry pick questions from a standardized measure,” defense attorney Melisa McNeill said.

Marcus argued prosecutors have a right to question an assessment tool.

“The state, meaning me, did not administer a test,” Marcus said. “I asked questions like ‘Did he know how to use the microwave?’, ‘Did he know how to use a toaster?’ Those are not copyrighted questions.”

Scherer denied the defense’s request.

“I do find that the questions that issue that were asked by the state in (the) deposition were fact based questions that the state is entitled to ask for a number of reasons,” Scherer said. “The motion is denied.”

Court resumes Wednesday, taking up some pending motions that the judge wants to hear from both sides on. Opening statements are scheduled to begin on Monday.

The 12 jurors

Juror 1 is a man who works as an information technology analyst for a city in Miami-Dade County. 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 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.”

“I have done a dozen qualification events but, outside the range, I haven’t used weapons,” he said in court during attorneys’ one-on-one interviews.

Juror 11 is a man who works for a family business involving exports. He said he earned a college degree in music and worked as a project manager until the pandemic disrupted the industry.

Juror 12 is a woman who works as a senior compliance investigator for a medical device firm. She said she has worked in finance and accounting. Her father was a police chief. 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.

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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."

Chris Gothner joined the Local 10 News team in 2022 as a Digital Journalist.