State rests case in Parkland school shooter’s death penalty trial after crime scene visit

Tears flow in court after jurors visit blood-spattered MSD classrooms, listen to victim impact statements

Broward Sheriff’s Office deputies preserved the crime scene of the massacre on Feb. 14, 2018, so that jurors and a small group of reporters could observe it on Thursday.

PARKLAND, Fla. – Broward County Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer said the prosecution rested their case in the Parkland school shooter’s death penalty trial on Thursday afternoon in Fort Lauderdale.

The state is seeking the death penalty for Nikolas Cruz who pleaded guilty to charges related to the Feb. 14, 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Assistant State Attorney Michael Satz delivered his opening statement on July 18. His team called 91 witnesses in 12 court days to testify at the 17th-floor courtroom in the west building of the judicial complex.

The list of the prosecution’s witnesses included the 17 injured — a teacher and 16 students — and there were also 33 witnesses who presented emotional statements about the 17 killed.

The jurors’ long-awaited visit to the preserved crime scene lasted about an hour and 30 minutes.

The attorneys plan to return to the courtroom on Aug. 15 for a Daubert hearing, when Scherer will evaluate whether or not expert testimony and evidence will be admissible.

Scherer told the jurors to return to the courtroom on Aug. 22. The defense team has yet to present an opening statement and a list of witnesses.


Jurors visit blood-spattered MSD classrooms

Roses that had been brought to honor love on that Valentine’s Day in 2018 lay withered, their dried and cracked petals scattered across classroom floors still smeared with the blood of victims gunned down by a former student more than four years earlier.

Broward Sheriff’s Office deputies preserved the crime scene where Cruz shot 34 people — killing 17 and injuring 17 others — so well it looked like time had stopped since the tragedy.

The 22 members of the jury, 12 jurors and 10 alternates, rode in white vans from the courthouse in Fort Lauderdale to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

Deputies and attorneys escorted the group into the school’s 1200 building. Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer told the jury to “explore and observe.” They did so for about an hour and 30 minutes in silence.

Learn more here about Local 10 News Christina Vazquez’s perspective >


Tears flow in court during last day of victim impact statements

Victim impact statements in the Parkland school shooter’s penalty phase had many in the Broward County courtroom in tears on Thursday afternoon.

Victim impact statements had many in the courtroom in tears on Thursday afternoon.

The first witness was Anne Ramsay, the mother of Helena Ramsey, one of the victims Cruz killed in the school’s 1200 building. The grieving mother said her “brave, beautiful and one of a kind” 17-year-old “girl” died on her father’s birthday.

“That day will never be a celebration and could never be the same for him, and now it’s filled with pain, as is every day,” Anne Ramsay said.

A group of witnesses related to 15-year-old Peter Wang, a JROTC student, and 49-year-old Christopher Hixon, a U.S. Navy veteran, also testified.

Learn more here >

Cruz declines to visit preserved crime scene

Nikolas Cruz appeared in court Thursday morning at which time he formally waived his right to visit the crime scene of the Feb. 14, 2018, massacre.

Cruz, 23, decided to waive his right to visit the 1200 building with the jury, but he was in court to listen to the last victim impact statements.

After the prosecution and the defense present their closing statements, the jury will have to determine Cruz’s fate. A unanimous vote for every victim will result in a death sentence. Otherwise, Scherer will sentence Cruz to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

WATCH: Commentary on Cruz waiving right to visit crime scene

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."

Janine Stanwood joined Local 10 News in February 2004 as an assignment editor. She is now a general assignment reporter. Before moving to South Florida from her Washington home, Janine was the senior legislative correspondent for a United States senator on Capitol Hill.