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Prospective jurors were, again, being asked about their feelings on the death penalty for convicted killer Nikolas Cruz Wednesday, only this time in the shadow of another deadly school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.
Thomas Hoyer lost his 15-year-old son Luke in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on Feb. 14, 2018.
He has been in the Broward courtroom watching the slow, methodical, jury selection proceedings, but now he says it’s “surreal.”
“Those families are starting this terrible journey and we might be getting closer to the end of ours,” Hoyer said outside the courtroom Wednesday morning. “I hope their journey through all this is a lot faster than ours.”
Defense attorney Casey Secor returned to court Wednesday after a two-day illness.
His absence further slowed this second phase of jury selection because he was the lawyer tasked with questioning potential jurors about whether they would choose a life-or-death sentence for Cruz.
Thomas Hoyer, who lost his son Luke in the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, talks about the Texas school shooting in Uvalde.
“I’m resigned to it going either way,” Hoyer said.
The 23-year-old Cruz has already pleaded guilty to 17 murders and 17 attempted murders.
Since the day before the first round of jury selection began on April 4, 19 children and two adults were killed in Uvalde, 10 people were murdered in a Buffalo grocery store, six were killed in a Sacramento church, four people were killed in Biloxi, five were killed in Duluth, and four were killed in Mountain View, Arkansas.
“It feels like the safety of people in schools and churches, while talked about, may have fallen down the list of priorities a bit,” Hoyer said. “People, for lack of a better way of putting it, are getting used to it.”
Nearly 400 of more than 1,600 people survived the first round of jury selection that focused on their schedules and the hardships of serving on a jury through September.
In the second round of more targeted questioning about the death penalty, that began May 16, little more than two dozen of over 80 people have been chosen for the next round.
Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer is hoping to get down to a pool of 150 finalists to select 12 jurors and eight alternates.
In the meantime, Hoyer feels for the families in Uvalde.
“I’m in physical pain for what they’re going through right now,” he said, his voice shaking.
He said progress is slow, but there is progress.
Some states are considering Red Flag laws that allow police to confiscate guns from people making threats through social media and others may enact limited background checks, he said.
“I’m not going to give up. My wife is not going to give up. The families from Parkland are not going to give up,” Hoyer said. “We’re going to keep pushing and there’s going to be change… at some point.”