Prosecutor takes issue with defense jury question in Parkland shooter case
Another pre-trial hearing took place on Friday in preparation for Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz’s penalty phase trial.
Jury selection, a search for 12 jurors and 6-8 alternates, is set to begin on Monday. The jury will have to decide if Cruz will face life in prison or the death penalty.
(See the video from inside the courthouse)
On Friday, the state objected to several proposed questions on the initial pre-screening questionnaire that they called “defense-oriented.”
Cruz now 23, was 19 years old when he confessed to returning to his former school, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, with an AR-15 to shoot 34 people. 17 died and 17 were injured, on Feb. 14, 2018.
In October, he pleaded guilty to 17 counts of first-degree murder and 17 counts of attempted murder.
“These are obviously biased questions,” said Prosecutor Jeff Marcus.
Marcus told Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer that questions should be “neutral” during the initial phase of the general jury screening.
Cruz attorney Tamara Curtis told the judge why the questions that the state objected to should be included in the initial phase.
“Because people might use that to base their decision rather than the facts of the case.”
Scherer said she would keep the question in but it needed to be presented in more general terms.
She did decide to strike a question that the state raised an objection to.
“The state, and I don’t think the court, wants to be associated with ‘Have you sought the services of psychologists (or a) mental health facility,” Marcus said.
JURY SELECTION BY THE NUMBERS
Q. How many summonses were sent for this trial?
A. Almost 3,000 were sent to summon jurors. 1,000 for Monday and Tuesday questioning, 800 for Wednesday questioning.
Q. How does that compare to a usual week?
A. It is consistent with a usual week. The court is unable to summon more due to parking and other logistical issues.
Q. What is the average “no show rate” for those summoned, whether they do not show or whether their summons is “returned”?
A. Broward County Court said it currently experiences about a 30 to 40 percent yield from the total summoned. Of the 1,000 summoned, approximately 350 to 400 may appear.
Q. What happens if someone ignores a summons?
A. All people who are summoned to serve as jurors must attend unless they have been excused by the court. Attendance is essential to the fair administration of justice. People who fail to respond to a jury summons without being properly excused can be fined up to $100 and, in addition, can be held in contempt of court.