WATCH LIVE: Judge to rule on pending motions on Parkland school shooter’s case
Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer to rule on pending motions Monday that are related to the Parkland school shooter’s death penalty trial.
Scherer said the swastika motion would be addressed first. Assistant State Attorney Nicole Chiappone argued for the state. Chief Assistant Public Defender Melisa McNeill argued for the defense.
Chiappone said Nikolas Cruz displayed the symbol on his backpack, the AR-15 rifle used during the 2018 Valentine’s Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and a boot he wore.
“The defense has opened the door by admitting the records,” Chiappone said referring to the photograph of Cruz’s backpack.
Records show Nikolas Cruz etched a swastika on a rifle and wrote an expletive and a racial slur on his backpack. A forensic psychologist said evidence of Cruz’s behavior supports a mental health diagnosis.
McNeill said the defense wants a mistrial if Scherer allows the prosecution to reference the “prejudicial information” in court. Chiappone said experts used this evidence to support an anti-social personality diagnosis.
The jury hasn’t seen the firearm magazine with the swastika, and other items the prosecution’s expert used to support a diagnosis of the mental condition with a long-term pattern of violating the rights of others without any remorse.
Scherer asked the prosecution to provide her with details about their intent to present the evidence to the jury and she said the defense should expect her ruling in writing by Tuesday.
Judge Elizabeth Scherer holds up documents as she considers arguments from the defense that the jury should be prevented from seeing the swastikas on the pages (circled in red) during 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 Thursday, Sept. 1, 2022. (Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP, Pool) (Amy Beth Bennett/)
The Parkland school shooter’s defense asked Scherer on Friday to “disqualify” herself from the case, according to a 22-page motion filed in Broward County court.
On Monday afternoon, Scherer denied the defense’s motion to disqualify as “legally insufficient” and without “merit.”
The defense claimed the motion was filed in response to Cruz’s fears after Scherer admonished Chief Assistant Public Defender Melisa McNeill in court.
McNeill responded in the motion by saying Scherer’s admonishment was “the zenith of the cumulative disdain the court has publicly expressed.”
Cruz’s statement: “I am seriously concerned about … Scherer’s impartiality and ability to be neutral in a proceeding where my life is literally at stake.”
Scherer asked the jurors to return on Sept. 27 when the prosecution plans to be ready for rebuttal.
The defense and the prosecution agreed to be ready for closing statements after the first week of October.
Scherer said the court is in recess until 3 p.m.
State’s motion on swastika evidence
Ruling on the defense’s motion to disqualify
Prosecution’s response to the defense’s motion to disqualify