WATCH LIVE: Day 1 in penalty phase trial for Parkland school shooter
The first day of the penalty phase trial for Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz began Monday.
(LIVESTREAM OF THE TRIAL CAN BE SEEN AT THE TOP OF THIS PAGE, ALONG WITH ANALYSIS FROM LOCAL 10′S JANINE STANWOOD AND LEGAL EXPERTS.)
Juror questioned about allegedly discussing case outside of court:
Monday’s hearing started with the judge acknowledging that someone had informed the court that one female juror had spoken about the trial at a doctor’s appointment.
The juror, however, swore under oath that she never discussed the case, the defendant or her feelings about the case.
State Attorney Michael Satz asked Broward County Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer why the person who reported the alleged incident would lie, but Scherer said she found the juror to be credible and there’s all sorts of reasons for people to lie, whether it be that they want their 15 minutes of fame or are just “mean.”
Scherer ultimately kept the juror on and asked her to remember that she was not allowed to talk about the case with anyone during the duration of the trial.
State delivers opening statement:
Satz began the state’s opening statement a short time later, taking well over an hour to discuss how Cruz got to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2018, what he did when he got there and the victims whose lives he took.
The state kicked off opening statements Monday morning in the penalty phase trial of Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz.
“This is a planned, systematic mass murder of 14 children, an athletic director, a teacher and a coach,” Satz told the jurors.
The lead prosecutor called the mass shooting a “cold and calculated attack” and noted the exact time that the shooting began — 2:21:33, at which time Cruz fired the first shots at four students in a hallway after he alerted another student who he saw in a stairwell that something bad was going to happen.
Satz also recited a recording that the gunman made shortly before the shooting:
“Hello, my name is Nik. I’m going to be the next school shooter of 2018. My goal is at least 20 people with an AR-15 and some tracer rounds. It’s going to be a big event and when you see me on the news, you’ll know who I am. You’re all going to die … I can’t wait.”
Cruz pleaded guilty last October to 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder.
Several jurors were seen diligently taking notes as Satz delivered his opening statements.
“You only get one chance to make a first impression and jurors watch everything we do in the courtroom,” legal analyst David Weinstein said. “And for Mr. Satz to stand up in front of them and have such a command of the names of the victims, how many shots were fired, where the defendant entered, what he did when he was there, the number of bullets, the caliber – that has to have an impact on these people.”
Helena Ramsay’s mother left the courtroom in tears as Satz recounted how and when Cruz shot the victims.
Another family member was quietly crying while across the courtroom, Tony Montalto, whose daughter Gina was killed in the school shooting, took a deep breath and closed his eyes when Satz first said his daughter’s name.
Background of penalty phase trial:
Cruz faces either life in prison or the death penalty.
Authorities say Cruz, then 19 years old, used an AR-15 rifle, during the Valentine’s Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018.
9 AM REPORT:
Cruz shot and killed seven 14-year-old students — Alaina Petty, Alex Schachter, Alyssa Alhadeff, Cara Loughran, Gina Montalto, Jamie Guttenberg and Martin Duque.
He killed two 15-year-old boys, Peter Wang and Luke Hoyer, and he killed students Carmen Schentrup, 16; Nicholas Dworet, 17; Helena Ramsay, 17; and Meadow Pollack, 18.
Cruz also killed three school employees: Scott Beigel, 35, cross country coach and geography teacher; Aaron Feis, 37, an assistant football coach and security monitor; and Chris Hixon, 49, an athletic director and wrestling coach.
In June, seven men and five women swore to serve as jurors in the case.
Broward County Judge Elizabeth Scherer estimates the trial will run for four to five months.
The jury’s decision must be unanimous for the death penalty to stand. Otherwise, Scherer will have to sentence Cruz to life in prison without the possibility of parole.