Judge’s Mistake May See Parkland Shooter Avoid Death Penalty

By Jannis Falkenstern
Jannis Falkenstern
Jannis Falkenstern
Jannis Falkenstern is an Epoch Times reporter who covers the state of Florida.
April 27, 2022 Updated: April 27, 2022

PUNTA GORDA, Fla.—A Broward County Circuit judge’s procedural mistake on April 25 could cause the Parkland shooter to get a life sentence instead of the death penalty.

Attorneys for Nikolas Cruz—who is accused of murdering 17 students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018—filed a motion asking Broward County Judge Elizabeth Scherer to end jury selection and prepare to sentence Cruz to life in prison because of a “mistake” she made in jury selections.

The motion went on to say that, “at the very least, the judge must reinstate the jurors she previously struck.”

According to Cruz’s lawyers, the judge on April 5 “prematurely dismissed 11 jurors.” The motion was filed over a dispute with the judge for dismissing them.

Epoch Times Photo
Nikolas Cruz, facing 17 charges of premeditated murder in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, appears in court for a status hearing in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on Feb. 19, 2018. (Mike Stocker/Pool via Reuters)

Scherer defended her decision and offered to have the jurors return for additional questioning on April 25. However, they were not told to return to court for the additional questioning and the state moved to strike all 243 jurors that had previously passed through the first round of jury selections.

The judge agreed with the state—over objections from the defense—and began jury selection from scratch.

“The court did so without attempting a single plausible remedy and without giving the defense sufficient time to respond,” Cruz’s lawyers wrote in a motion filed April 27.

“Although this court did indicate it would give the defense an opportunity to ‘change its mind’ … based on the Court’s actions, the defense is concerned that the court will not give this motion due consideration.”

Defense attorneys said the judge’s decision gave prosecutors a “significant advantage” in obtaining a jury more like to vote “unanimously” for the death sentence.

The motion continued to say that, “The improper striking of all previous panels violates double jeopardy and due process.”

“Thus, if this court does not intend to reverse its order striking all previous panels, and further does not intend to make an attempt to return the 11 improperly excused jurors to court, the state must be barred from seeking the death penalty and the proceedings must conclude.”

Under Florida law jury recommendations for the death penalty must be unanimous. If there is one hold-out Cruz could be sentenced to 34 life sentences—17 for the surviving shooting victims and 17 for those who died in the rampage.

Cruz has confessed to the murders, but his fate is the subject of the upcoming trial.

The defense team wants Cruz to be sentenced to life in prison, while prosecutors want a jury trial to decide whether he should be sentenced to death.

Jannis Falkenstern is an Epoch Times reporter who covers the state of Florida.