The jury is chosen to decide the verdict of the Florida school shooter

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – A jury of seven men and five women was selected Tuesday for a criminal trial to decide whether the Florida school gunman Nicholas Cruz should be sentenced to death or life in prison for the 2018 attack, concluding a nearly three-month selection process that began with 1,800 candidates.

The jury was selected by prosecutors and defense attorneys from a final panel of 53 candidates. The chosen ones survived three rounds of interviews that began on April 4 and were protracted by numerous delays due to illness and other factors. Eight to ten deputies were selected.

The jury will decide whether Cruz, 23, should receive the death penalty or life in prison without parole for the murders 14 students and three employees at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on February 14, 2018.


Cruz pleaded guilty in October on those murders and 17 counts of attempted murder, so the jury will only decide his sentence. They must agree that Cruz gets the death penalty – if at least one votes for life, the sentence will be for Cruz.

The judges selected are two bank executives and two technology workers, a probation officer, a human resources specialist and a Walmart warehouse manager. Also included are a librarian, a medical claims adjuster, a paralegal, and two retired insurance and healthcare executives.

Each side had an opportunity to convince Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer that a particular candidate was biased. And if she disagreed, each side also had 10 compelling challenges in which she could eliminate contestants for any reason other than race or gender. The defense used seven and the prosecution used four.


The panel will have a task never before 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.

In the first phase of the jury selection, the prospective panelists were only asked whether their employment and living conditions would allow them to complete the expected four months of the process. About 80% were eliminated because their employers would not pay them, they are self-employed, or they had school duties or vacations planned.

In the second phase, the remaining 300 panellists were asked their opinions on the death penalty and whether they could be fair to Cruz. Finally, about 85 were questioned about their life and work history, whether they could stand seeing gruesome crime scene and autopsy photos, playing violent video games, and believing that whites have advantages in society that are unavailable to ethnic minorities.


The selection process has been turned upside down several times. One day, the sheriff’s deputies guarding the courtroom thought Some would-be jurors wanted to attack Cruz and dragged him to safety as they quickly removed the threatening panelists. Another day, Scherer had to dismiss a group of potential jurors because you wore a referencing t-shirt the gunfight supporting the victims and survivors. The selection was also pushed back by two weeks when the lead defender was Melisa McNeill sick with COVID-19.


The jury is exposed to graphic evidence, including crime scene and autopsy photos, and tour the three-story classroom where Cruz methodically stalked the hallways, shooting at everyone in front of him and firing into the classrooms. It hasn’t been cleaned since the shooting and is still bloodstained and full of bullets, with Valentine’s Day gifts scattered around.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission. The jury is chosen to decide the verdict of the Florida school shooter

Sarah Y. Kim

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