Prosecutors seeking death for Parkland school shooter continue rebuttal
The prosecution team that is seeking the death penalty for the Parkland school shooter continued with their effort to disprove the defense on Tuesday in Broward County court.
The prosecution called Robert L. Denney on Monday afternoon and he returned Tuesday morning. He is board certified in both clinical neuropsychology and forensic psychology by the American Board of Professional Psychology.
“There are seven people who have both board certifications … in the world,” Denney said during his Monday introduction.
Denney said Tuesday he tested Nikolas Cruz in March in front of one of his attorneys and he recorded videos of the sessions. He used the results and analysis of the evidence to question the reliability of about a dozen “very low” test scores presented by the defense.
Paul Connor, a neuropsychologist who testified for the defense, performed the tests that Dr. Kenneth Lyons, the defense’s lead witness, used to say Cruz “does fulfill the criteria” for alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder, which causes intellectual disabilities and behavior problems.
Denney said some of his tests show Cruz was “grossly exaggerating” his symptoms and that some test results considered in the case are “not a valid reflection of his real abilities.”
Denney explained how Cruz’s low finger tapping test results to measure his simple motor speed would be “very obvious in a real-world situation.” And that, he said, was not the case after watching three videos of the shooting on Feb. 14, 2018, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
“The real world functioning doesn’t match the test result,” Denney said adding that “there is absolutely no way that finger tapping score is valid.”
Denney said Cruz’s achievements with the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps at MSD, and his “fluid motion while moving down the hallway” of the 1200 building were also not consistent with the test score.
Denney’s testimony follows that of Dr. Charles L. Scott, a forensic psychiatrist with the University of California, who said Cruz’s “premeditated acts of aggression” and interests are characteristic of anti-social personality disorder — and not of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, as the defense argued.
“They disparage others. They have a lack of remorse about harming or hurting other people,” Scott said after mentioning Cruz’s racist, anti-Semitic, and misogynistic comments.
Cruz pleaded guilty to 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder last year. This allowed only two sentences: Life in prison without the possibility of parole or death.
Florida requires a jury’s unanimous vote for execution, so the defense only needs to convince one of the 12 jurors.
Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer said the court is in recess until 9 a.m., on Thursday since Wednesday is Yom Kippur, the holiest day in Judaism.
Watch the 9 a.m. report
The prosecutors seeking the death penalty for the Parkland school shooter started their rebuttal on Sept. 27 in Broward County court.
Watch videos of the experts
Scott’s testimony on Sept. 27
Scott’s testimony on Oct. 3
The defense’s lead expert: Dr. Kenneth Lyons
Connor testifies for defense on Sept. 13
Connor testifies for defense on Sept. 12