WATCH LIVE: Jurors ask judge addresses jury’s questions in Parkland school shooter’s case
Before the jury’s deliberation began Wednesday morning, Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer read instructions to set the parameters of their decision on the punishment that Nikolas Cruz should face for the 17 murders during the 2018 Valentine’s Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Related document: View the jury instructions
After a few hours of deliberating, the jurors requested The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and the guidelines by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. They also requested the transcripts for two expert witnesses who are neuropsychologists: Paul Connor, who testified for the defense, and Robert L. Denney, who testified for the prosecution.
Deputies had escorted Cruz to a holding cell in the courthouse, so they brought him back to the courtroom where he will remain while the judge answers the question. The families of the victims were waiting on the 13th floor of the courthouse and they too returned to the courtroom.
The prosecution team that is asking the jury to recommend the death penalty listed seven aggravating factors, the circumstances that they argued lessen his culpability. Scherer said two of the factors apply to Broward County Public Schools employees Christopher Hixon, Aaron Feis, and Scott Beigel.
Watch the 12 p.m. report
Judge charges jury to consider if Nikolas Cruz should be punished with life in prison without the possibility of parole or the death penalty for the 17 murders at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
The defense team that is asking the jury to recommend a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole as punishment listed 40 mitigating factors, the circumstances that they argued lessen his culpability. These include evidence of Cruz’s mental health challenges and alleged remorse.
Scherer said the jury will receive 17 jury verdict forms, one for each of the murder victims. Fourteen of the 17 forms apply to the students’ murders, so the list of questions applies to the first five aggravating factors listed. The other three forms apply to Hixon, Feis, and Beigel, and include the first five aggravating factors and the two additional factors that apply to their roles as public employees.
Scherer asked the jury to weigh the reliability of the evidence and testimony and to consider the expert witnesses’ opinions based on their knowledge and expertise. She also gave the jurors 14 rules for deliberations and asked them to select a foreperson who will sign each of the 17 verdict forms before submission to the court.
The 12 jurors and the 10 alternate jurors arrived with their luggage at the courthouse and the court deputy escorted the five women and seven men to begin deliberating while sequestered.
Scherer told the 10 alternate jurors, who she referred to as “co-pilots,” that they will not be able to watch the news or talk about the case to anyone until the court says so. She later said they too were sequestered.
Scherer also asked the 10 alternate jurors to leave their notepads in court before leaving and said these and the 12 jurors’ notepads will be destroyed after the case is closed. The jurors will be away from their families and in isolation in the courthouse and in a “top secret” location overnight.
Scherer read the list of the 17 counts:
Count 1: Luke Hoyer
Count 2: Martin Duque
Count 3: Gina Montalto
Count 4: Alex Schachter
Count 5: Alaina Petty
Count 6: Alyssa Alhadeff
Count 7: Nicholas Dworet
Count 8: Helena Ramsay
Count 9: Christopher Hixon
Count 10: Carmen Schentrup
Count 11: Aaron Feis
Count 12: Scott Beigel
Count 13: Meadow Pollack
Count 14: Cara Loughran
Count 15: Joaquin Oliver
Count 16: Jaime Guttenberg
Count 17: Peter Wang
1. The first-degree murder was committed by Cruz who was previously convicted of a felony.
Scherer said Cruz was convicted of a felony after the attack on Sgt. Ramon Beltran at the Broward County main jail and pleaded guilty to the 17 counts of attempted murder
2. Cruz knowingly created a great risk of death to many persons.
3. The first-degree murder was committed while Cruz was engaged in the commission of a burglary
4. The first-degree murder was especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel.
5. The first-degree murder was committed in a cold, calculated, and premeditated manner without any pretense of moral or legal justification.
6. The first-degree murder was committed to disrupt or hinder the lawful exercise of any governmental function or the enforcement of laws. This applies to Hixon, Feis, and Beigel.
7. The victim of the capital felony was an elected or appointed public official engaged in the performance of his or her official duties if the motive for the capital felony was related, in whole or in part, to the victim’s official capacity. This applies to Hixon, Feis, and Beigel.