Delay sought in Nikolas Cruz’ jailhouse battery trial after lead defense attorney falls ill

·2 min read

UPDATE: On Monday morning, Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer rejected the defense effort to delay the opening of the jailhouse assault trial of the Parkland shooter. Read the update here. The original coverage continues below:

Attorneys for Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz want the first day of jury selection in his battery on a law enforcement case delayed, saying his lead attorney has been seriously ill for the previous few days.

Jury selection in that case was set for Monday morning, but an emergency motion filed in Broward County Circuit Court Sunday said the lead attorney in this case suffered a serious medical emergency on Sept. 30 and has been hospitalized.

The court filing requesting the delay said the assistant state attorney in the case had no objection to a delay.

The motion doesn’t identify the attorney, but the Broward County Clerk of Court website lists Assistant Public Defender David Wheeler as the lead attorney in the case.

Cruz is charged in this case with attempted aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer with a deadly weapon, battery on a law enforcement officer and other related charges. The charges stem from a November 13, 2018 altercation with a Broward County Jail detention deputy. The attack was captured on jailhouse surveillance video.

If convicted of the battery on a law enforcement officer and other charges, Cruz would likely face a maximum of 15 years in prison.

Cruz, the confessed killer in the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, faces the death penalty for that crime, which left 17 people dead and another 17 injured.

A conviction in the jailhouse battery case would be considered in his sentencing in the Parkland case.

Through his attorneys in the public defender’s office, Cruz has offered to plead guilty in exchange for a sentence of life in prison.

Defense lawyers last week asked Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer to dismiss the charges because the Broward County Sheriff’s Office failed to preserve all surveillance video from the day of the attack.

Cruz rushed Broward Sgt. Ray Beltran when the two were alone away from Cruz’s cell, prosecutors say. The lawyers wanted to review all the video from that day, not just the portion that officials deemed “relevant” to the attack.

If there was evidence on that video that might have shed light on what Cruz did and why he did it, no one will ever know, defense lawyers argued.

Scherer rejected that request last Thursday.

Austen Erblat can be reached at aerblat@sunsentinel.com, 954-599-8709 or on Twitter @AustenErblat.

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