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Tribune News Service
Tribune News Service
Rafael Olmeda and Lisa J. Huriash

Parkland jury follows killer’s path through Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School

PARKLAND, Fla. — Jurors in the Parkland mass shooting trial retraced the path of the confessed gunman Thursday morning through the hallways and stairwells of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, an exercise the prosecution says was necessary to truly understand the crime that was committed and the terror experienced by the victims.

The seven women and five men who are sitting on the jury, as well as 10 alternate jurors, were taken to the crime scene under heavy security. They were in the building 92 minutes, entering just before 10 a.m. and exiting just before 11:30 a.m.

“This is the crime scene that he chose,” said prosecutor Jeff Marcus, arguing on Wednesday that jurors should be allowed to enter the classrooms so they could see not only where students died, but where they hid to escape death.

The freshman building has been preserved as a crime scene in preparation for this day, Marcus said.

Before the site visit on Thursday, the gunman, Nikolas Cruz waived his legal right to accompany the jury at the crime scene.

Cruz has pleaded guilty to 17 charges of murder and 17 charges of attempted murder and is asking the jury to show mercy by sentencing him to life in prison instead of death,

He walked into the freshman building shortly before dismissal on Valentine’s Day 2018, assembled an AR-15 style rifle, and opened fire. The jury has seen evidence that he was plotting to carry out the massacre for at least seven months, as well as graphic videos and photographs of the victims inside the building.

The building has not been used since the shooting, and a new freshman building put in place, but the school district cannot demolish the old building until prosecutors no longer need it. They have argued that keeping the building until now has been “an absolute necessity,” because it offers a true depiction of how and where the massacre happened, they say.

Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer told jurors on Wednesday they could use Thursday’s site visit to “assist you analyzing evidence,” but she warned them not to touch anything or discuss their observations with each other.

They were not escorted through the building, but received guidance on which areas they can observe. Jurors were offered shoe coverings, and their phones — which have camera capability — were held by the Broward Sheriff’s Office during the trip.

A small group of media representatives are scheduled to walk through the building after the jurors leave. They too will be under strict regulations on which parts of the building they can access, and they also will not be allowed to take electronic devices with them inside the building.

Nobody was scheduled to be on campus during the jury’s visit; staff will return to campus next week and the school year begins Aug. 16.


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