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Jurors in Parkland school shooter trial can visit crime scene, judge says

A Broward County Sheriff's Office vehicle is parked outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2018
Wilfredo Lee
A Broward County Sheriff's Office vehicle is parked outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2018, in Parkland, Fla.

Jurors in the upcoming penalty trial of confessed Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz can visit the crime scene, a judge ruled.

Jurors don’t often visit crime scenes but a Florida statute lets them if a judge says so.

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“A jury view of the crime scene remains useful and proper,” Broward County Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer wrote in a ruling dated last Thursday.

The jurors would be under court supervision as they walked through the freshman building at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 people were killed.

Public Defender Melisa McNeill argued this would traumatize the jury. She said the emotions jurors would experience would render them unable to be fair and impartial.

She instead offered to play a censored video of the crime scene for jurors.

“If the purpose of bringing the jury to the crime scene is so that they can understand the area that Mr. Cruz walked, the path that he took… that can be done with the sanitized crime scene. They don't need to see all of the other traumatizing, horrible things that will be admitted in through photographs throughout the proceeding,” she said during a March hearing.

Prosecutors argued that the shooting was cold and calculated.

Assistant State Attorney Carolyn McCann said letting jurors walk the same path as the shooter would help them see that, too.

“He doesn't get to commit the crime and then create the evidence of how he is going to present it in court,” she said, pointing directly at Cruz.

The building on the Parkland campus has not been used since the shooting. The school district plans to demolish it when it is no longer needed as trial evidence.

The process of jury selection in the deadliest mass shooting case to have a trial started Monday morning and is expected to last two months.

Gerard Albert III covers Broward County. He is a former WLRN intern who graduated from Florida International University. He can be reached atgalbert@wlrnnews.org
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