1 Fort Lauderdale
News & Reviews
A jury of 12 people was chosen Tuesday from among 54 Broward County residents to sit in judgment of the man who killed 17 and wounded 17 others at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February 2018.
They include seven men and five women.
Their jobs include a bank vice president, a state probation officer, a stocking team leader at WalMart, and an IT systems analyst; there’s a a computer technician, a medical claims adjuster, someone who works in the county library system, and a legal assistant.
Also chosen were a human resources executive, a retired international insurance company executive, the head of international wealth management for an investment firm and a retired healthcare executive.
Nikolas Cruz has already pleaded guilty as charged, so the only question for them will be whether he should get life in prison or be sentenced to death.
The defense is looking for just one juror who will not vote for death – in which case Cruz will be automatically sentenced to life without parole.
Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer read more than 1,000 names of potential witnesses to the panel Tuesday afternoon, to see if any should be excluded because of their relationship to any of the witnesses.
Only a few potential jurors, including those who worked in education and emergency response, recognized any of the names. And none were excused because of that.
The judge then gave each side an opportunity to argue why any of the others remaining should be excused for cause, and two more were.
Then each side was given the chance to strike up to 10 people each from the prospective panel of 12. The defense used seven of those strikes and the state used four.
The judge then moved on to the selection of eight to 10 alternate jurors.
Before the reading of names got underway, lawyers continued an argument from last week over whether the jury will see swastikas the killer scrawled into his firearm magazines and boots. The state said it may only seek to introduce that in its rebuttal case, after the defense has an opportunity to raise circumstances it believes argue for a life sentence.
The state made a similar promise about evidence of racist social media posts connected to the killer – which the defense is also seeking to have excluded form the jury’s consideration.
The defense said it was not “acquiescing” to the state’s suggestion that the material can be introduced in the rebuttal phase, and reiterated it believes the judge should have made clear before selection started whether the evidence would be admissible. They said they “object to any further exploration” of the issues.
Pretrial motions are scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday, and several days of hearings are expected next week as the state challenges scientific evidence the defense claims will show the killer suffers from brain damage and other issues stemming, in part, from his natural mother’s alcohol use while she was pregnant with him.
The judge has most recently set July 6 as a start date for opening statements, but it could be delayed further until, perhaps, July 11.