Trial For Confessed Parkland Shooter Delayed By Pandemic
The trial for the confessed Parkland school shooter, Nikolas Cruz, has been pushed back again, this time with no new date in sight, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
At a status hearing Monday, Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer said it's unclear when it will be possible to get a group of people into the courthouse to hold jury selection.
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"We have to take it one day at a time, quite frankly," Scherer told public defenders for Cruz and attorneys for the state on the Zoom call. "I don't know whether or not we're going to have to figure out some other way to select a jury in this case. I don't think anyone knows at this point."
Scherer was aiming to begin the trial sometime this summer, after delays in the past.
"The chief judge and I are very open to any suggestions if you all have any kind of, I don't know, creative suggestions, as to how we could get this case underway in a more timely manner as far as the trial is concerned," Scherer said. "I was thinking of a few things myself but ... I don't think we're there yet."
Other than trying to keep social distancing in the court room, she did not elaborate.
"When we will be there, I don't know," she said.
Cruz was not present on the Zoom call, because it was just a status hearing to see how things are progressing. He is facing 17 charges of first-degree murder and 17 charges of attempted murder for the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, more than two years ago now, on Feb. 14, 2018.
The Broward County Courthouse has been closed to all non-essential personnel since March 16. It is closed — at the very least — until Aug. 1, Scherer said.
"We're all in the same boat here," Scherer said. "I have no idea, I don't think anyone has any idea of when the courthouse is going to reopen to the public, as far as getting this trial underway."
Cruz's team of public defenders have scheduled some depositions, via Zoom, to begin in July with law enforcement. Due to the pandemic, the defense had to cancel 25 scheduled in-person depositions, according to attorney Gabriel Ermine. The defense team has written about 24 new motions since the courthouse closed, but they have not filed them yet.
The next virtual hearing for attorneys on both sides to check in with the judge is scheduled for Aug. 25, about two months from now.
"I would ask please that you all continue to keep working diligently on this case and have it prepared, so that when we are able to accommodate prospective jurors and a trial we can begin as soon as it's safe to do so," Judge Scherer told the attorneys.