Nikolas Cruz, now 20, back in court as attorneys discuss release of private records

Defense attorney claims state or BSO violated court order

By Peter Burke - Managing Editor, Associated Press

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Nikolas Cruz appeared in court Wednesday as attorneys sparred over the release of the Parkland school shooter's private medical records.

Defense attorney Melisa McNeill asked Broward County Judge Elizabeth Scherer for an evidentiary hearing to determine how Cruz's records were obtained by the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission.

McNeill argued that either the state attorney's office or the Broward Sheriff's Office violated Scherer's court order by releasing the records to the 14-panel commission, which she claimed "obviously went backdoor to get these records." 

"It was either the state of Florida or the Broward Sheriff's Office, but the commission is in possession of records that they should not be in possession of, and I believe that's either through the fault of the Broward Sheriff's Office or the state attorney's office," McNeill said.

Assistant state attorney Steven Klinger said the state stands by its position.

"Their motion is completely meritless and baseless and it should be summarily denied," Klinger said. "The state attorney's office has not, in any way, shape or form, violated the orders of this court."

Defense attorney Melisa McNeill and assistant state attorney Steven Klinger state their positions before Judge Elizabeth Scherer, Sept. 26, 2018, at the Broward County courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Cruz's attorneys also asked the judge Wednesday to allow them to interview hundreds of witnesses the prosecution have placed off limits.

The attorneys want to interview more than 450 witnesses rather than relying on written statements or other documents. 

Scherer agreed to allow only one to be interviewed so far, saying the effort was premature.

Defense attorneys already have about 170 civilian and 90 law enforcement top-level witnesses to interview. That process has yet to start.

Cruz, who celebrated his 20th birthday Monday in jail, is charged with 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the Valentine's Day mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. He faces the death penalty if convicted.

The last time Cruz was in court, Scherer scolded the attorney for the SunSentinel after the newspaper published details about Cruz's educational background that were supposed to be redacted to protect his privacy.

Copyright 2018 by WPLG The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.