Day 3 of Cruz death penalty trial: Defense questions only 1 out of 29 witnesses

Michael Powell, a mathematics teacher, testified on Tuesday, about his experience in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School's room 1230 on Feb. 14, 2018. (Copyright 2022 by WPLG - All rights reserved.)

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – As of Wednesday afternoon, 29 of the prosecution’s witnesses had testified during Nikolas Cruz’s death penalty trial for the 2018 Valentine’s Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

The defense is allowed to question the prosecution’s witnesses, yet they chose to question only one: Michael Powell, a mathematics teacher who testified on Tuesday.

Assistant Public Defender Tamara Curtis stepped up to ask Powell a few questions after Mike Satz, the lead prosecutor, talked about sheltering terrified students in room 1230.

Curtis: “Was there a campus monitor assigned to your floor?”

Powell was on the second floor of the school’s 1200 building, also known as the freshman building. Satz said four out of the 10 classrooms on that floor were empty.

Assistant Public Defender Tamara Curtis questions a witness on Tuesday in Broward County court in Fort Lauderdale. The witness was Michael Powell, a teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. (Copyright 2022 by WPLG - All rights reserved.)

“Yes, right where the elevators are. There is typically a monitor there,” Powell said.

Curtis: “Do you remember it being David Taylor?”

Powell said he didn’t remember. It has been more than four years since Cruz used an AR-15 to shoot 34 people — 17 died and 17 were injured.

After the shooting, the school board reassigned Taylor, an unarmed campus monitor and assistant baseball coach, to administrative duties. He was accused of hiding during the shooting and was later dismissed.

Cruz pleaded guilty to 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in October. The death penalty trial began when teacher Brittany Sinitch testified about her nightmare in room 1218 on Monday.

Teacher Dara Hass also testified on Tuesday. She was in classroom 1216. Teachers Ivy Schamis, Julie Matlock and Ronit Reoven testified on Wednesday. Schamis was in classroom 1214. Matlock was in classroom 1215. Reoven was in classroom 1213.

A Local 10 News source familiar with the defense’s strategy said the question about Taylor will make sense when they present their case.

There will be hundreds of more witnesses. Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer estimates that the trial will be about four to five months long.

It will be up to the jurors to decide if Cruz deserves to be executed for his crimes. Without a unanimous decision, Cruz’s sentence will be life in prison without the probability of parole.

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About the Author:

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.