I have been following the capital sentencing trial of Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz somewhat more closely than I follow other capital trials in part because the case involves such competing extremes. This case is the deadliest U.S. mass shooting to ever reach trial, involves no question about guilt and the 17 victims were mostly students with many as young as 14. And yet Nikolas Cruz’s defense team has presented a considerable mitigation case highlighting his damaged upbringing and considerable mental health issues.
The Cruz defense team rested its case in mitigation last week sooner than had been expected, and that led to a reaction by the presiding trial judge which has now produced a defense motion to remove the judge. Here are some headlines and ledes from a few stories covering these latest developments:
The attorneys representing the Parkland school shooter filed a motion Friday asking for the judge overseeing his sentencing trial to be replaced. The motion comes after the judge and the defense attorneys had an unusually heated exchange on Wednesday, in which the judge accused the attorneys of a lack of professionalism.
The motion alleges that Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer’s conduct during the Wednesday exchange revealed “long-held” animosity toward the defense counsel that has “infected” the proceedings and will prevent their client from getting a fair trial.
The sudden end of the defense case in the Parkland mass shooting trial this week drew criticism of and from the presiding judge, temporarily overshadowing the biggest question at issue — was enough evidence presented to convince a jury to spare the defendant’s life?
It’s impossible to say for sure — juries are notoriously unpredictable. But at least one expert, and some trial observers, say they would not be surprised if the jury in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas mass shooting case were to show mercy toward confessed gunman Nikolas Cruz.
Some prior related posts: