Judge clears way for jury to walk through Stoneman Douglas crime scene

By Rafael Olmeda

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The jury in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting case will get to tour the crime scene as part of the gunman’s upcoming trial, a Broward County judge ruled Friday.

Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer rejected a defense motion asking her to put a stop to the prosecution’s plans to have the jury follow in the footsteps of Nikolas Cruz, 22, who is charged with murdering 17 students and staff and injuring 17 more on Valentine’s Day 2018.

Scherer had approved the walk-through before, but lawyers for Cruz asked her to reconsider in July, arguing that the visit to the Parkland campus would unnecessarily traumatize the jury and jeopardize Cruz’s right to a fair trial.

Prosecutors said the jury has a right to all the facts of the case and that the tour will give them a perspective that witness accounts and courtroom arguments cannot.

Scherer, as she has before on this issue, sided with the prosecution. Her ruling did not explain the reasons for her decision.

Scherer is also expected to rule in the coming days on a state motion to block the defense from using alleged failures by the school system, justice system and mental health professionals as “mitigating factors” the jury can consider to reject the death penalty. Mental health is expected to form a key part of the defense strategy at the trial, though the Public Defender’s Office has not said whether Cruz will pursue an insanity defense.

Cruz, through his lawyers, has offered to plead guilty to all charges in exchange for a sentence of life in prison. He faces the death penalty if convicted of any of the 17 first-degree murder charges.


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