FORT LAUDERDALE — Jurors returned to a Fort Lauderdale courtroom Tuesday to hear prosecutors make their final rebuttal arguments in the case of Nikolas Cruz, the Parkland school gunman.
Cruz pleaded guilty in 2021 to killing 17 people and wounding 17 others at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2018. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
The 12-person jury will recommend whether Cruz, then 19 and now 24, is put to death or sentenced to life in prison. If it recommends death, a move that must be unanimous, Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer will make the final ruling likely sometime this fall.
In an unexpected turn, his team of public defenders announced Sept. 14 that it would rest its case despite having about 40 remaining witnesses scheduled to testify.
The Palm Beach Post is covering the daily proceedings live. Follow below for updates throughout this week.
Psychologist downplays claim Cruz had fetal alcohol syndrome disorder
Forensic psychologist Charles Scott testified Tuesday that Nikolas Cruz wasn't as mentally incapacitated as defense attorneys have attempted to show.
Scott met with Cruz over three days and 21 hours in March and diagnosed him with borderline personality disorder and antisocial personality disorder. He also found evidence that Cruz was "malingering" — where an individual fakes or exaggerates their symptoms.
Scott presented various videos in which Cruz spoke intelligently and at length on subjects that included the components of chess, including the name of specific pieces and their strategic use.
The doctor cast doubt that Cruz suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome disorder and that Cruz was capable of complex thoughts and decision-making.
In one video shown in court, Cruz is asked about the swastikas he placed on his gun magazine and one of the boots he wore used during the shooting.
Cruz claimed the swastika was a "symbol of peace" used by Native Americans and that he placed the image on his boot to represent "mostly peace."
Two swastikas on the gun magazine he used in the shootings were carved into the rifle by a friend while the two were "chilling out."
"Anything about swastikas or when I said nasty remarks about race … it was all for attention,” he said.
Cruz also told Scott that he was mean to animals, retelling how he skinned lizards alive or burned them to death with a lighter.
"I broke a lizard's back with a rock," Cruz said on video.
Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer halted Scott's testimony for the rest of the week before prosecutor Michael Satz finished his questioning.
The courthouse will be closed Wednesday and Thursday because of Hurricane Ian. Because Friday was supposed to be only a half day of testimony, Scherer decided to cancel and resume the trial Monday.
Cruz asks family to forgive him 'for what I have done' in letter found in cell
A Broward County Jail deputy testified Tuesday afternoon he found around 30 pages of hate-filled writings and drawings in Nikolas Cruz's cell on May 8.
Jean Marque-Puche read several of the pages to the jury, including the expletives and threats of violence used by Cruz.
In one of the drawings, Cruz appears to recreate the massacre. On one page, a stick figure shoots another labeled as "teacher," and students seated at desks are also shot.
The deputy testified that he found "666" scrawled onto a wall with what Cruz said was his own blood.
A Broward County jail deputy testified Tuesday he found around 30 hate-filled pages with writings or drawings in the cellroom used by Nikolas Cruz in May. The numbers "6-6-6" were supposedly scrawled on a wall with Cruz's blood, the deputy said. pic.twitter.com/mf6ZOkLlMj
— Jorge Milian (@caneswatch) September 27, 2022
Cruz seems to claim in one of the writings that he was driven into committing the shootings by an individual who “sexually humiliated me on f****** Instagram” and claims that they are the “main f****** reason why I shot up Stoneman Douglas”.
During cross-examination, the deputy was asked to read a letter written by Cruz to his family in which he asks to be forgiven "for what I have done" and also says he would like "to die a slow and painful death."
Cruz asked in the letter that he be buried with a woman whose name was not said in court.
Jury shown swastikas drawn by Cruz on rifle magazine, boots
Prosecutors began their rebuttal case Tuesday morning by showing the jury swastikas that Nikolas Cruz etched into a 30-round rifle magazine he used during the rampage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
The jury also saw a swastika marking on the right boot worn by Cruz on the day of the shootings.
Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer ruled against a defense motion on Sept. 1 that the markings of the hate symbol should not be shown because they were excessively prejudicial. Defense attorneys said that Cruz killed without regard to hate or religion.
The jury was shown swastikas Tuesday that Nikolas Cruz etched into the 30-round magazine found attached to his rifle and one of the boots the confessed school shooter wore on the day of the massacre. Tuesday marked the first day of the prosecution's rebuttal case. pic.twitter.com/OWsap6jJvn
— Jorge Milian (@caneswatch) September 27, 2022
The prosecution's rebuttal began with Broward Sheriff's Office Sgt. Gloria Crespo, who displayed the rifle that Cruz left behind in a stairwell and that had swastikas on either side of the magazine.
BSO Detective Clint Williams was the next witness, presenting the photo of a small swastika penned into Cruz's boot.
Defense attorneys did not cross examine either Crespo or Williams.
The morning's third witness was BSO Detective Nicholas Masters, who read aloud in the courtroom a series of racist, misogynistic and hate-filled social media postings in which Cruz talked about murdering Blacks and women and boasting of killing cats.
Under cross-examination, Masters admitted he found evidence of Google searches by Cruz asking "why am I isolated?" and "mental disorders," indicating the confessed killer was looking for help.
Cruz turned 24 on Saturday.
Jorge Milian is a journalist covering Boynton Beach and Lake Worth Beach at The Palm Beach Post. You can reach him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at Caneswatch. Help support our work, subscribe today.
This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Parkland shooter trial: Psychologist suggests Cruz faked mental symptoms