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Broward Judge To Consider Delaying Parkland Shooter Trial

Nikolas Cruz
Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP, Pool
Parkland school shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz listens to proceedings with his attorney Gabriel Ermine at the Broward Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale during a November hearing related to his case.

The next hearing in the case of the confessed Parkland shooter is scheduled for Thursday.

Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer is expected to consider a defense motion to delay the trial of Nikolas Cruz, who faces 17 charges of first degree murder and 17 charges of attempted murder for the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

The trial is currently slated to begin with jury selection on Jan. 27.

On the South Florida Roundup, host Tom Hudson talked about the case with WLRN's Broward County reporter Caitie Switalski.

TOM HUDSON: What is the argument in this defense motion to delay the trial beyond its scheduled start in late January?

CAITIE SWITALSKI: Their main argument is that 20 months to prepare this case for trial is less than half of the average prep time that Broward circuit courts have permitted for capital cases in the last 20 years. And it would bring this case to trial faster than 33 of the 38 death penalty cases in Broward since 1994. And that's all from the defense's motion. But they point out that in Broward, of the cases they mentioned, the defendants have not actually been executed, when it comes to death penalty cases.

If the death penalty were to be taken off the table, Cruz's defense team says he would plead guilty and be willing to serve the rest of his life in prison. And that's an argument. Some argue 34 life sentences take away the complication of trying to get the death penalty -- the theme here is get this over with. If the death penalty comes off the table, you have a totally different kind of case, and death penalty cases are held to a higher standard. There's a different level of accuracy required by the law when the government is trying to take away someone's life.

While they argue that this process for a death penalty trial is faster than normal for Broward County, what is the defense's arguments for, as they see it, why it's moving so fast?

One of their arguments is that the judge on the case, Judge Elizabeth Scherer, is up for re-election in 2020 and that that could be affecting her decision to move as quickly as she is. The defense is also arguing that the lead prosecutor on the case, Mike Satz--he's been our State Attorney in Broward for 44 years and he's stepping down--the defense argues that Satz is looking to get this wrapped up before he leaves office and end his career on a landmark case.

There's nothing about this case that's like a normal capital case. There are 34 victims, so many pages and social media posts to go through, photos. There are more than 1,000 witnesses identified by prosecutors that all have to be interviewed by Cruz's attorneys.

How have prosectuors responded to this motion for delay?

Because this is not like a typical capital case, they don't want it sitting on the books for years. Part of their argument has been that it's not a normal case, so they can't treat it like a normal case. The state is looking at it as, if we get this done and done right soon, we have to put the community through a last retraumatization. The defense argues that by doing this so fast and possibly needing other trials or getting this tied up in appeals, if it's not done right, that will cause more retraumatization to the community in the long-run.

The transcript of this interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.