Florida jury to determine school shooter’s sentence

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – A jury for the criminal trial of Florida school gunman Nikolas Cruz was finally sworn in on Wednesday, completing a nearly three-month selection process that ended with two last-minute changes made by his attorneys.

The defense ended up using all 10 of its compelling challenges, eliminating candidates on grounds other than race or gender, while the prosecution used four. On Wednesday, the defense used its final blows to eliminate a retired insurance company executive and a bank executive who had been provisionally on the panel when the court adjourned Tuesday.

District Judge Elizabeth Scherer shot down the defense’s attempt to peremptorily eliminate a black man who said during jury selection that he did not believe in the existence of “white privilege” – the argument that whites receive certain societal advantages because of their race. Scherer agreed with the prosecution’s argument that the defense’s reasoning indicates racial bias.

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The seven men and five women who were selected will return to court for opening arguments on July 18, along with the 10 alternates who were also selected. Cruz, 23, pleaded guilty in October to the murder of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on February 14, 2018, meaning the expected four-month trial will only decide whether he faces the death penalty or life imprisonment without parole. If a jury denies death, the former Stoneman-Douglas student will be sentenced to life in prison.

The panel will have a task never faced by a US jury – no American mass shooter who killed at least 17 people has ever made it to trial. Nine others died during or immediately after their shootings, either killed by police or by themselves. The suspect in the 2019 murder of 23 people at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, is awaiting trial.

The 12 members of the main jury are:

1. A computer worker for a city government. He used to work in construction and owns a pistol. He said during jury selection that he had no opinion on the case and only remembered the original headlines, but that it was “not good data.”

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2. A bank vice president. He is a former French military officer and has no weapons.

3. A parole officer. He said he was a military veteran. He said he didn’t have a firm opinion on the death penalty but was aware “some people are very passionate about it”. He was not asked about gun ownership.

4. A warehouse manager at a Walmart store. He has a cousin who knew Cruz in high school. He said he could be fair about the death penalty, but “either way this person should get what they get.” He was not asked about gun ownership.

5. Another computer technician for a city government. He owns a pistol and rifle and said he once had an unpleasant experience with a police officer, but was not asked to elaborate.

6. An insurance claims adjuster at a major healthcare provider. She has no guns. She said she wasn’t against the death penalty, but voting for it “would be difficult”.

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7. A librarian. She said her two children were prosecuted about 12 years ago, but “they were stupid. They’ve outgrown it.” She said that while she could vote for the death penalty, it “doesn’t seem to stop any killings.” She doesn’t own a gun.

8. A human resource professional for a medical supply company. She moved to Florida in 2019 and has a Ph.D. in business. She is a board member of a group that advocates for people with mental illness. She owns a pistol.

9. A paralegal in a small law firm that primarily handles personal injury cases. She previously worked for a central Florida district attorney’s office. She doesn’t own a gun. She said the death penalty is appropriate in the most serious cases, but it should not be automatic. “We have to look at everything”

10. A US Customs officer. He served four years in the US military. He didn’t specifically say if he owned guns, but said he was qualified in the military to use a dozen different firearms.

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11. A man who now works in his family’s export business after graduating with a degree in business administration with a major in entertainment. He said he forgot many details about the Stoneman Douglas shooting. He was not asked if he owned guns.

12. A woman who works as an investigator for a private company. She said if she were the ruler of an island she wouldn’t have the death penalty but could vote for it. She was not asked if she owned guns.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission.

https://www.local10.com/news/national/2022/06/29/florida-jury-sworn-in-to-determine-school-shooters-penalty/ Florida jury to determine school shooter’s sentence

Sarah Y. Kim

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