FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — The preliminary stage of jury choice within the trial of the Florida college bloodbath suspect on fees that he attacked a jail guard concluded Wednesday, however not earlier than attorneys clashed over whether or not Nikolas Cruz needs to be allowed to attract utilizing coloured pencils to keep away from getting upset.
Prosecutor Maria Schneider accused Cruz’s attorneys of giving him the coloured pencils to make the suspected killer of 17 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas Excessive College in Parkland in February 2018 seem sympathetic earlier than the potential jurors.
Cruz’s attorneys gave him the pencils after the 23-year-old grew to become visibly upset when a lady in Wednesday’s first group of 32 prospects started crying after seeing him — the third time that occurred over two days of preliminary screening.
“They’re doing (that) so the jury perceives that he’s a baby, that his mentality is one way or the other challenged,” Schneider informed Circuit Choose Elizabeth Scherer.
Cruz’s lead lawyer on the brawl case, Gabe Ermine, informed Scherer that was not their intention — they solely needed to assuage his feelings. All through Tuesday’s teams, Cruz had been alert, took notes and conversed together with his attorneys — a pointy distinction from Wednesday when he largely stared glumly downward
“I’m attempting to maintain him calm,” Ermine stated. “We aren’t doing this for any nefarious causes.” He stated Cruz had not truly completed any drawing.
Scherer dominated Cruz can’t be given coloured pencils after her courtroom’s lead safety deputy stated for security causes he’s solely allowed the pen his guards issued him. When Wednesday’s second group of prospects was introduced in, Cruz appeared to silently sob behind his pandemic masks earlier than taking a deep breath and considerably composing himself.
Greater than 100 potential jurors over two days stated they may pretty attempt Cruz on fees that he attacked Sgt. Raymond Beltran in November 2018, 9 months after the Stoneman Douglas bloodbath. The taking pictures trial has not but been scheduled due to the pandemic and arguments over proof and testimony, however is predicted to start throughout the subsequent few months.
Scherer stated that was a enough pool to select six jurors and a few alternates when choice is finalized Oct. 18. Testimony will start Oct. 19 and is just anticipated to final a day or two.
The prospects weren’t informed earlier than they entered the courtroom what case they have been being thought of for, however Cruz is notorious all through Broward County and lots of appeared to acknowledge him earlier than he was launched, not simply the ladies who cried.
Scherer requested every group of prospects if they may put apart their data and emotions about Cruz and consider the battery case by itself deserves. About half of the roughly 288 who got here by means of the courtroom throughout the two days stated they may not. They have been dismissed together with the three crying prospects and people who stated that they had work or private points that restricted their availability.
Beltran and Cruz fought on Nov. 13, 2018, with a soundless safety digicam recording the brawl. Beltran was overseeing Cruz throughout his recreation interval after they all of a sudden started to argue. Cruz flipped each center fingers at Beltran after which charged him, beginning a minute-long struggle that ended after Beltran staggered him with a blow to the top.
Beltran informed investigators that Cruz attacked him after he requested him to cease dragging his toes and damaging his sandals. Cruz’s attorneys are anticipated to argue that Beltran had a historical past of mistreating Cruz and verbally instigated the struggle.
Cruz faces a attainable 15-year sentence if convicted of tried felony battery on a regulation enforcement officer and three lesser fees. Cruz will get both demise or life in jail with out parole if he’s later discovered responsible of first-degree homicide, however this trial nonetheless has relevance. If Cruz is convicted of attacking Beltran, prosecutors can argue that’s an aggravating issue after they search his execution throughout the penalty section of his homicide trial, if convicted.
Cruz’s homicide trial is predicted to take months. His attorneys have stated he would plead responsible to 17 murders in change for a life sentence. Prosecutors have rejected that supply, saying this case deserves a demise sentence.