Nikolas Cruz back in court as defense attorney, judge have contentious exchange

Judge to Parkland school shooter's lawyer: 'You are being disrespectful'

By Peter Burke - Local10.com Managing Editor

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - The suspect in last year's Parkland school shooting massacre was back in court Friday as his defense attorney sparred with the judge.

Nikolas Cruz was in a Broward County courtroom Friday morning for a status hearing, but his public defender took center stage during a contentious exchange with Judge Elizabeth Scherer.

The exchange took place as assistant public defender Melissa McNeill sought to have Scherer force prosecutors to provide all body-camera footage related to the case within 10 days.

Here's what was said:


"This court has put us under a schedule, and we are not able to comply with that schedule because we are not receiving the information that we need to prepare this case for trial, and to come in here and say that they don't understand our demands almost -- what? -- nine months after I filed it is very disingenuous," McNeil said.

Scherer said she asked McNeil if she needed to re-depose a witness whose body-camera footage was not turned over in a timely manner.

"And you said, 'No,'" Scherer said.

"No, I did not say that," McNeil replied. "I said, judge, let's finish with the other arguments and then we can address whether or not I want to re-depose. There are several issues…"

"Ms. McNeil, let me talk, please," Scherer interrupted.

"Well, you're misquoting me, judge," McNeil told her.

"Ms. McNeil, I said, 'Are you asking this court to re-depose the witness?' And then you said, 'Not at this time," Scherer said. "But then I said, 'Is there anything else on defense (motion No.) 49?' And both sides said no. And I said, 'Let's move on.'"

"Then we need to readdress 49," McNeill fired back.

"OK, you need to take it down a notch," Scherer told McNeill.

"Judge, you are putting words into my mouth," McNeill said.

"You are being disrespectful," Scherer told her.

"Judge, I have to repeat myself for you so you can understand what I'm saying," McNeill told Scherer.

At that point, Scherer interrupted and called for a five-minute recess so McNeill could compose herself.

"But you're being disrespectful and I'm not going to be talked to in this way," Scherer told her.


Ultimately, Scherer ordered that the state must turn over all the videos to the defense within 10 days.

"If there are reports that are not being turned over, that's not accectable," Scherer said. "I want to know about it."

Cruz is charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder in connection with the Feb. 14, 2018, mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Cruz's trial is tentatively scheduled for early next year, but no date has been set.

His attorneys have said he will plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence. The prosecution is seeking the death penalty.

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