Jurors to visit Parkland school shooting scene. Building still has blood stains, bullet holes

Mourners bring flowers as they pay tribute at a memorial for the victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Sunday, Feb. 25, 2018. Parents and students returned to the school for the first time since 17 people were killed in a mass shooting at the school in Parkland on Feb. 14.
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Jurors on Thursday morning will visit the freshman building at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, where 14 students and three staff members were shot to death in Florida’s deadliest school shooting.

The visit will take place as the state wraps up its case against former MSD student Nikolas Cruz, who is facing the death penalty for 17 counts of first-degree murder. He pleaded guilty last fall, and the 12-person jury will only be considering whether to sentence him to death or to life in prison.

The blood-stained and bullet-riddled three-story building has been locked but kept largely intact since the massacre on Valentine’s Day of 2018. The jury visit will clear the way for the 1200 building to eventually be demolished by the school district.

Over the course of 11 days of trial, Broward jurors have already seen numerous crime-scene photos and surveillance clips of Cruz’s methodical rampage inside the building, gunning down students in the hallways and through windows of classroom doors.

The Broward Public Defender’s Office had argued against the jury visit, saying it would only serve to “inflame” jurors. The State Attorney’s Office, however, said the visit was needed for the jury to fully understand the nature of the massacre. Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer sided with the state.

“The primary purpose of a jury view is to assist you in understanding and analyzing the evidence presented at trial,” Judge Scherer told jurors on Wednesday afternoon.

Cruz himself has elected not to attend the visit, defense lawyers said.

The jury visit is expected to happen under tight security provided by the Broward Sheriff’s Office. Jurors will be allowed to “explore and observe” the three floors of the building, plus relevant classrooms. The judge warned jurors that they cannot speak or ask deputies any questions about what they are viewing.

“Avoid touching or moving any item located at the scene,” she said. “Do not, under any circumstances, touch anything.”

Jurors will return Thursday afternoon to hear final testimony from families of the victims.