Day 5 of jury selection in Nikolas Cruz’s death penalty case ends with questionnaire dilemma

The search for the 12 jurors who will decide if Nikolas Cruz will be executed or serve life in prison continued on Tuesday in Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer’s courtroom.

Scherer needs 12 jurors and 8 alternates from June to September. The selection began with about 1,500 potential jurors. The dismissals ranged from a “sugar daddy” financial burden to Scherer’s former roller-skating instructor.

A woman said she met Cruz during a group trip in 2016. On Tuesday, there was a freelancer, a pregnant woman who said her delivery is Aug. 15, and a man who said his wife was a recent kidney recipient and he wanted to take her to follow-up appointments.

“I don’t want her to take an Uber; I take care of my wife,” he said.

“And that is 100% OK,” Scherer said.

The jury selection process includes individual interviews after the screening process and challenges from both the prosecution and the defense. Each side gets at least 10 peremptory strikes to eliminate potential jurors. Scherer said she will announce on Wednesday if she will release the questionnaire provided to potential jurors to the public.

Cruz, 23, sat between two of his defense attorneys. Scherer ordered that he wear civilian clothes and not a jumpsuit during the process. He was steps away from some of the relatives of the victims of the Feb. 14, 2018, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre.

“I am a lunch lady I work with the School Board, so I don’t think I would be an impartial at all juror,” a potential juror said.

“OK, but as far as scheduling goes I think the School Board pays,” Scherer said and later decided not to dismiss her.

Emotions were high on Monday with one group of jurors. The case hits too close to home for many Broward County residents.

“My spirit is so disturbed,” a woman said before Scherer decided to dismiss her and the panel of 60 potential jurors who heard her.

Attorney David Weinstein, who is not involved in the case, said Cruz’s defense may decide to request that the case be moved to a courtroom in another part of the state. He said that under the rules either party can move for a change of venue if they believe the defendant cannot get a fair and impartial trial.

“It’s a strategic move and one that could backfire … The population in a different part of the state could be less favorable,” said Weinstein, a former Assistant U.S. Attorney who has been following the case closely.

Last year, Cruz pled guilty to 17 counts of first-degree murder and 17 counts of attempted murder. As Scherer moves ahead with the penalty phase, she expects the jurors to be ready for testimony by May 31st to stay on schedule.

For the sentencing, the 12 jurors must unanimously agree to the death penalty. If any of them disagree, Scherer has to sentence Cruz to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

12 p.m. report

Jury selection continues in Nikolas Cruz’s case for 17 murders and 17 attempted murders on Feb. 14, 2018, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

Coverage of jury selection: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 archives

TWISF on Sunday: Retired prosecutor comments on the jury selection process

With the Parkland school shooter’s case in mind, a former prosecutor with experience in death penalty cases said the perfect juror is someone who is willing to listen, think — and follow the law and “not necessarily their heart.”

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