Fred Guttenberg demands public defender’s resignation over remarks during hearing

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Fred Guttenberg told the Parkland school shooter’s defense that since his 14-year-old daughter Jaime Taylor Guttenberg died during the 2018 Valentine’s Day massacre at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School he has been traveling around the country lobbying to reduce gun violence.

Guttenberg said he had no intention of speaking during the sentencing hearing. But he said he watched from home on Tuesday when Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer and Broward Public Defender Gordon Weekes clashed and he was incensed when Weekes said the victims’ families wanted to incite violence.

Guttenberg criticized Weekes for ignoring that many of them have dedicated their lives to preventing violence. He also praised Scherer for having been “nothing but decent, fair, and firm” and he demanded Weekes’ resignation.

“To suggest for one second that we would be the kind of people or anyone back there would be the kinds of people who would incite violence, you all should be ashamed of yourselves,” Guttenberg said on sentencing day.

Related story: Judge sentences Parkland school shooter to 34 consecutive life sentences

On Tuesday, Assistant State Attorney Jeff Marcus stood up and objected to Weekes’ statement, saying the only violence in reference was that of the defendant.

“No one jumped when people were referring to Karma acting in the universe,” Weekes said referring to a grieving mother’s comment. “No one was jumping up when they were referring to the defense’s children. No one jumped up to try to tap down that rhetoric ... I am witnessing a building of momentum and I am encouraging the court to direct the state to tap down on that momentum.”

Assistant State Attorney Carolyn McCann said the victims had the legal right to “express themselves and be heard,” and after Weekes spoke, she accused him of lying.

“The only thing the state has said to any of these witnesses when they get up is, ‘Would they like to say something on behalf of the victim they are representing?’ There has been no encouraging or inciting,” McCann said.

Related story: Video shows heated exchange between judge, Parkland shooter’s defense

One of the grieving fathers raised a comparison about the defense’s “tolerance for murder” and mentioned the defense’s children.

Then an upset defense attorney told Scherer, “I can assure you that if somebody was talking about your children you would definitely notice it” after Scherer claimed to not have heard the reference about the defense’s children.

Scherer immediately said, “You need to sit down right now! In fact, you are excused.”

Related story: Grieving families let Parkland school shooter know they see he is ‘evil’ and criticize his defense

The exchange soon resulted in Scherer ordering the assistant public defender to sit in the back of the courtroom with Weekes. But Weekes returned to the podium.

“Judge, the same venom that the court is expressing is the same venom that defense counsel had to sit through,” Weekes said while appearing to defend his assistant public defender’s behavior.

Scherer told Weekes that McNeill had chosen to bring up her children during her defense and then she asked Weekes to sit down. Weekes asked Scherer to not dismiss him. Scherer repeatedly asked him to sit down. Weekes then asked for a recess. She denied it, so he eventually walked away.

“You are inappropriate and out of line. Go sit down,” Scherer told Weekes, later adding, “We are moving on with the sentencing.”

Related story: US Navy pilot was serving on the coast of Iran when she lost her father-in-law in Parkland school shooting

During her heated exchange with the defense, Scherer also mentioned Assistant Public Defender Tamara Curtis’ behavior in court earlier in July. Curtis wasn’t in the courtroom Tuesday.

“When these people are upset about specific things that have gone on from that table like shooting the middle finger up at this court and laughing and joking ... When these people have sat in this courtroom and watched this behavior from that table and they want to say that they are not happy about it, what is the problem?”

This is a developing story.

Related videos

Fred Guttenberg’s complete statement

Watch video of when Scherer asks Weekes to ‘Sit down!’

Watch the complete video of the judge’s exchange with the defense

Attorneys argue about testimony during the sentencing hearing

Watch Max Schachter’s statement to defense, shooter

Watch Michael Schulman’s statement to defense, shooter (Warning: Expletives)

Watch Jennifer Guttenberg’s statement to defense, shooter

Watch Patricia Padauy Oliver’s statement to defense, shooter

Watch Andrea Guersi’s statement to defense, shooter

Watch Manuel Oliver’s statement to defense, shooter (Warning: Expletives)

Afternoon reports

Watch the 4 p.m., Nov. 1 report

Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer and the Broward Public Defender Public Defender Gordon Weekes clashed in court Tuesday during the Parkland school shooter's sentencing hearing.

Watch the 5 p.m., Nov. 1 report

During the first day of sentencing hearing on Tuesday, the Parkland school shooter listened to statements from surviving victims and the victims' relatives for hours in the courtroom.

Watch the 6 p.m., Nov. 1 report

An argument over whether or not the relatives of the victims should address the Parkland school shooter’s defense attorneys during the sentencing hearing prompted Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer to ask Broward Public Defender Gordon Weekes to sit down Tuesday in Fort Lauderdale.

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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.