FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The Florida Bar is investigating one of the assistant public defenders who represented the Parkland school shooter during the recent penalty phase in Broward County.
According to attorney Jennifer Krell Davis, a spokeswoman for The Florida Bar, the investigation on Broward Assistant Public Defender Tamara Curtis was ongoing Thursday.
Davis did not specify the subject of the investigation. Florida Bar records show Curtis became a member on April 14, 2004, and is a graduate of Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.
Curtis wasn’t in court on Wednesday when Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer sentenced Nikolas Cruz to 34 consecutive mandatory life sentences in prison without the possibility of parole and remanded him to the custody of the Florida Department of Corrections.
The families of the 2018 Valentine’s Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School victims got the last word during a two-day sentencing hearing that allowed them to express themselves with symbolic colors, the photographs of their loved ones on jewelry and signs — and from behind a podium.
An emotionless Nikolas Cruz sat with a group of Broward Sheriff’s Office deputies behind him. He was next to Casey Secor, his capital defense attorney, and most of the members of the public defense team that fought to save his life and managed to convince three of the 12 jurors to do the same.
Some of the victims’ parents used their time behind the podium to condemn the defense’s effort to “humanize” “a monster,” “a murderous bastard,” and “an animal” and accused them of “putting up a show” to “manipulate” the jurors. The defense objected to the criticism.
“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?” Scherer told the defense.
A livestream feed carried by the Law & Crime network back on July 12 during a pretrial hearing gained traction online. That moment, showed Curtis sitting next to Cruz and another attorney when they notice a media camera. Curtis waves to the camera and then moments later, appears to put up her middle finger at the camera while rubbing it against her cheek. She and Cruz then laugh.
This happened just after the defense was asking about camera placement in the courtroom – specifically about one camera right in front of the judge, pointing at the defense table. After the court went into recess, Scherer said she would remain in the courtroom to do some “busy work.” The moment happened minutes later during a recess.
Chief Assistant Public Defender Melisa McNeill disagreed with Scherer’s stance on the victims’ families’ criticism of them.
“I did my job, and every member of this team did our job, and we should not personally be attacked for that,” McNeill told Scherer.
After the sentencing hearing ended, Scherer hugged the prosecutors. She also spent time with some of the victims’ parents, some of whom decided not to speak during the sentencing hearing.
Local 10 News Executive Producer Natalie Morera contributed to this report.
>Here is what happened on Day 1 of the sentencing hearing
>Here is what happened on Day 2 of the sentencing hearing
Victim impact statements without restrictions
The family of murder victim Christopher Hixon
Ines Maria Hixon
The parents of murder victim Scott Biegel
Linda Biegel Schulman
Michael Schulman (Warning: Expletives)
The mother of murder victim Helena Ramsay
The family and girlfriend of murder victim Joaquin Oliver
Patricia Padauy Oliver
The mother of murder victim Nicholas Dworet
The sister of murder victim Alaina Joann Petty
The father of murder victim Alexander Schachter
The parents of murder victim Jaime Guttenberg
The father and brother of murder victim Gina Montalto
Anthony Montalto III
Anthony Montalto II
The family of murder victim Alyssa Alhadeff
Parents: Lori and Ilan Alhadeff
Grandmother: Theresa Robinovitz
Grandfather: David Robinovitz
Uncle: David Alhadeff
Grandmother: Representative reads Vicky Alhadeff’s statement
Representatives read statements of Carmen Schentrup’s parents
Mother: April Schentrup
Father: Philip Schentrup
Injured survivors and their families
Samantha Fuentes was injured in the classroom where Helena Ramsay and Nicholas Dworet died
Stacey Lippel was injured near where her colleague Scott Beigel was killed
The parents of injured survivor Benjamin Wikander: Bree and Eric Wikander
The mother of injured survivor Samantha Mayor: Ellyn Mayor