Here are updates from Day 19 in the sentencing trial of confessed Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz, 23; a jury will decide if he will be executed or sentenced to life in prison without parole. He pleaded guilty in October to 17 counts of first-degree murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the Feb. 14, 2018, massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Next phase: Nearly 70 potential jurors have moved on to the final phase of jury selection. From that group, 12 jurors and several alternates will be selected for the jury.
Connections: A potential juror who moved onto phase 3 works at Church by the Glades, the home church of Tom and Gena Hoyer, parents of slain victim Luke Hoyer. He said he never knew the Hoyers before the shooting. He said he attended Luke’s funeral. “Three of the funerals were at our church,” he told the court.
Hardships: A woman who is seven weeks pregnant and a man who said he was unable to get on the elevator were among potential jurors excused for hardships. Defense lawyers and prosecutors suggested removing the woman, but the judge was torn before ultimately dismissing her. The man, identified as firefighter and paramedic, had sent several emails seeking to be excused because a medical condition, an assistant public defender said. “Apparently, now he cannot bring himself to get on the elevator. I don’t think I have a choice but to excuse him, even though that’s a pretty lame excuse,” Judge Elizabeth Scherer said.
Question about victim impact statements: One potential juror wanted to know why the jury will have to hear victim impact statements if they are not allowed to consider them as aggravating factors. Scherer couldn’t give a full answer and read the legal instruction, which just restated the question. Later, after consulting with lawyers on both sides, she elaborated: “Florida law does not permit a victim’s family member to testify or give a recommendation about the appropriate sentence.”
Looking ahead: Jury selection is scheduled to resume Tuesday, June 21, which is expected to be the final day of phase 2. Phase 3 is expected to start Wednesday, June 22.
Go to SunSentinel.com/parkland-shooting for complete coverage of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School tragedy and ongoing coverage of the sentencing trial.
Sun Sentinel staff writers Rafael Olmeda and Scott Travis contributed to this report.