Court officials say 1,500 or more candidates could be brought before District Judge Elizabeth Serer, prosecutors and Cruz’s public defenders for an initial hearing in the coming weeks. The final committee will consist of 12 jurors plus eight alternates. Cruz, 23, pleaded guilty in October to the February 14, 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, meaning the court will only decide whether to sentence him to death or life without parole.
Seven other U.S. assassins who shot dead at least 17 people died during or shortly after the attacks, either by suicide or by police. The suspect in the massacre of 23 people in 2019 in an El Paso, Texas, Walmart, is still awaiting trial.
Death penalty trials in Florida and much of the country often take two years to begin due to their complexity, but Cruz’s trials were further delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic and widespread legal controversy.
Tony Montado, whose 14-year-old daughter Gina died in the attack, said the trial was “very long”.
“I just hope everyone remembers the victims,” he said. Cruz said, “he told the world his plans on social media, he carried out these plans in a cold and calculated way and he killed my beautiful daughter, 13 of her classmates and three of her teachers.”
The parents and spouses of the victims who spoke publicly stated that they were in favor of the execution of Cruz. Montalto did not immediately answer the question, but has said many times that Cruz “deserves every opportunity he has given Gina and others.”
From Monday to Wednesday for most of the following weeks, the jurors will come to the courtroom in groups of 60 people, about four a day.
They will be asked if they can put aside any hostility towards Cruz and judge the case fairly. They will then be asked if they are available from June to September. From each team, Scherer hopes to have five left.
Candidates who pass these barriers will be taken to another room, where they will complete a questionnaire about their background and beliefs for later examination by lawyers. They will be returned in several weeks for individual interrogation. To qualify for the jury, they must say they can vote in favor of the death penalty if the evidence supports this verdict, but they also do not believe it should be mandatory for murder.
Both prosecutors and the defense can challenge any juror for reasons. Scherer will eliminate candidates who have been persuaded by lawyers on both sides that they would be biased. Each side will also receive at least 10 compelling strikes, where one can eliminate a candidate for any reason other than race or gender.
In order for Cruz, a former student of Stoneman Douglas, to be sentenced to death, the jury must unanimously agree that aggravating factors such as the number of people he killed, his design and his cruelty outweigh mitigating factors such as his lifelong mental illness and death of his parents.
If a juror disagrees, Cruz will be sentenced to life in prison.
Copyright © 2022 by the Associated Press. All rights reserved.
Marjory Stoneman Douglas school shooting: Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz sentencing trial begins with jury selection Source link Marjory Stoneman Douglas school shooting: Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz sentencing trial begins with jury selection