Judge in Nikolas Cruz case reverses decision, will bring back 11 potential jurors

Posted at 9:11 PM, April 27, 2022 and last updated 12:25 AM, April 28, 2022

By: Scott Sutton, Ryan Hughes

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (WPTV) — Judge Elizabeth Scherer reversed a decision she made Monday regarding a dispute over how to handle 11 potential jurors who were prematurely dismissed earlier this month in the sentencing of the Parkland school gunman.

 

Wednesday’s ruling effectively preserves the first two weeks of jury selection in the Nikolas Cruz case.

The judge said Wednesday the 11 potential jurors would be brought back to court on Monday to be questioned, saying the state’s motion to start the jury selection from the beginning was premature.

Nikolas Cruz speaks with Assistant Public Defender Melisa McNeill prior to the start of the day’s jury pre-selection in the penalty phase of his trial at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Wednesday, April 27, 2022. Attorneys for Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter argued Wednesday that he should no longer face a possible death sentence, accusing both the judge and prosecutors of acting in bad faith when 240 potential jurors were dismissed this week. (Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP, Pool)

The judge had ruled Monday that she should have questioned 11 potential jurors who said they would not follow the law before she dismissed them on April 5.

This decision came amid a Wednesday filing from Cruz’s defense team that sought to strike the death penalty from the case amid the misstep during the jury selection process.

“The striking of all of these prospective jurors exponentially compounds the potential error by prematurely excusing them without knowing whether the initial error can be cured,” the defense team said in Wednesday’s filing. “Moreover, notwithstanding the State’s contentions, the improper striking of all previous panels violates double jeopardy and due process. Thus, if this Court does not intend to reverse its order striking all previous panels, and further does not intend to make an attempt to return the 11 improperly excused jurors to court, the State must be barred from seeking the death penalty and the proceedings must conclude.”

Read the defense team’s motion

Judge Elizabeth Scherer removes her headset after participating in a sidebar discussion during jury pre-selection in the penalty phase of the trial of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Wednesday, April 27, 2022. (Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP, Pool)

Scherer did not grant this request from the defense.

Earlier in the day, prosecutors called the defense team’s arguments regarding the death penalty baseless and “a blatant attempt to goad the court into reacting unfavorably toward the defense.”

Testimony now isn’t scheduled to begin until June 21.

Cruz has already pleaded guilty to killing 17 people during the 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

This story was originally published April 27, 2022 by WPTV in West Palm Beach, an E.W. Scripps Company.

MORE NEWS