Jury selection in Nikolas Cruz’s case faces new hurdle

More than four years after the Valentine’s Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, the search for the Broward County jurors who will have to decide if Nikolas Cruz should be executed faced more hurdles.

Cruz’s defense was preparing to argue on Wednesday against Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer’s decision to restart the jury selection process. Scherer agreed to nullify the first attempt after the prosecution complained about an error.

“It’s better just to start fresh,” Assistant State Attorney Carolyn McCann said in court Monday.

Cruz’s defense disagreed. The first attempt at jury selection involved more than 1,200 potential jurors. The alleged error stems from Scherer’s decision to dismiss 11 of them on April 5.

The 11 jurors answered in the negative to Scherer’s question about whether or not they would follow the law. Attorneys expected the 11 to return on Monday, and when they didn’t, Scherer said there was a miscommunication.

Scherer wants 12 jurors to weigh on the evidence and eight alternate jurors to be ready to replace any of them. On Tuesday, in front of a panel of 70 potential jurors, she said the jury needs to be ready by mid-June.

Cruz, was 19 years old when he arrived at his former school on Feb. 14, 2018, armed with an AR-15 assault rifle. He admitted to shooting 34 people — 17 died. In October, Cruz, now 23, pleaded guilty to 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder.

Since it’s a death penalty case, jurors must weigh the evidence and vote on whether or not they think Cruz deserves to be killed as a punishment for his crimes. If all of the jurors don’t agree, Scherer‘s only option will be to sentence him to life in prison without parole.

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