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If the death penalty prevents school shootings, it ‘carries with me’

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The search for the group of Broward County residents who will decide in court whether Nikolas Cruz should be executed for his crimes continued Tuesday in Fort Lauderdale. The five members of Cruz’s defense were all in attendance after being absent due to COVID-19.

Cruz, 23, was 19 when he shot dead 34 victims with an AR-15 rifle at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14, 2018. In October, after years of delays, he pleaded guilty to 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder. Jury selection began on April 4th.

Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer needs 18 to 20 jurors – 12 in the jury box and alternates. Hundreds of jurors answered questions hard excuses. The narrowing down of the jury pool continued with the individual interviews. The first questions focused on death penalty.

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A prospective juror with experience in social psychology presented her challenge to the court:

“If imposition of the death penalty could deter another mass murderer from doing so, it would carry some weight to me as to whether that would be a reason to say yes to the death penalty.

“On the other hand, does it make sense to expand the body of an already horrific murder? But that’s when you talk about weighing. For me it would come down to: Where does it make the most sense to impose the most absolute punishment you can give someone.”

Assistant District Attorney Jeff Marcus wanted her to remain in the jury pool.

“She made it very clear that she would listen to any evidence,” Marcus said.

Assistant Public Defender Melisa McNeill wanted her out.

“She would add weight to an unlawful aggravator,” McNeill said in reference to the impact the punishment of others.

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Scherer sided with the jury with the prosecution.

“I totally disagree on whether it can’t be fair and impartial,” Scherer said. “I think she absolutely can.”

The ongoing interviews also allow the attorneys to gather information so they can best decide how to use their ten chances to clear potential jurors.

Lawyer David S Weinsteina partner at Jones Walker LLP who has been prosecuting the case said the court should not rush the process.

“We all want a closure: the community, the families of the victims, everyone affected. But to have the clasp that really holds, you have to take your time,” Weinstein said. “You have to let the process run its course and do your best to avoid making mistakes that escalate to the level of a reversal and make us go through this again.”

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Cruz’s defense filed a motion to postpone the trial, arguing that the May 24 school shooting in Uvalde, Texas would make it impossible for Cruz to get a fair jury. An 18-year-old gunman, also armed with an AR-15 rifle, killed 19 students and two teachers and wounded 17 others.

For Cruz to be sentenced to death, all 12 jurors must agree. Otherwise, Scherer has no choice but to sentence him to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

Scherer announced that jury selection will resume Wednesday at 8:15 a.m.

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https://www.local10.com/news/local/2022/06/07/potential-juror-if-death-penalty-prevents-school-shootings-it-has-weight-with-me/ If the death penalty prevents school shootings, it ‘carries with me’

Sarah Y. Kim

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