Fort Lauderdale, Fla. ( Associated Press) — Public defender representing Florida school shooter Nicolas Cruz He tried to withdraw from his death sentence trial on Monday after a judge ordered him to proceed with jury selection, even though a member of his five-member team is ill with COVID-19.
Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer rejected a motion of withdrawal by Cruise’s lead attorney, Melissa McNeil, who said she could return Monday afternoon with a motion to dismiss the judge from the trial as being unreasonable.
The defense also filed a motion to indefinitely delay Cruz’s trial, saying the May 24 school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, which killed 21, stirred sentiment in Broward County. Awakened again. On February 14, 2018 at Marjorie Stoneman’s murder of 17 at Douglas High in Parkland, He said the shooting has made it impossible for him to have a fair trial at present. Scherer did not rule on that proposal.
Judges Scherer and McNeil argued heatedly Monday at the judge’s insistence that jury selection proceed without the presence of Casey Sikor, a South Carolina death penalty defense expert assisting McNeil. Scherer said Secor could watch proceedings over a video link and communicate with McNeil by phone or text message.
sherer McNeil accused Cruz of deliberately trying to provide ineffective advice, saying his team would not participate without Sikor. At one point, Scherer closed the hearing, asking McNeil to consult the Florida bar about the sanctions he might face if he and his team refused to participate. She said the four lawyers in the courtroom for Cruz were enough.
“We’re moving forward,” Scherer said.
But McNeil told the judge that she was laying the groundwork for a successful appeal by ineffective defense counsel, insisting that jury selection proceed without Sikor, whom McNeil said had special expertise in that area. Is. McNeill said that more than half of successful death penalty appeals are on issues arising during jury selection. If Cruz is sentenced to death, a successful appeal will result in re-trial several years from now.
“The families of these (victims) don’t need to come back to this courtroom,” McNeil said. She also said that Scherr’s threat to sanction her created a conflict between her obligation to provide Cruise the best possible defense and her obligation not to jeopardize her law license for her career and family.
Prosecutors found themselves in the middle. They originally agreed with the defense to delay jury selection until Secor returned, but then told the judge that she would be on solid legal grounds if she decided to proceed without Secor. After this, the poet adjourned the court till noon on Monday.
Cruz, 23, pleaded guilty in October to 17 counts of first-degree murder. The court is trying to select 12 jurors and eight alternates for a four-month trial that will decide whether to give him the death penalty or life in prison without parole.
The jury selection, which was originally scheduled to end by mid-May, is slated as wellIncluding a two-week delay when McNeil was ill with COVID-19,
An original pool of approximately 1,800 potential jurors has been reduced to about 300 with the process in Phase 3 of 2. After being asked simply during Phase 1 whether his job and life would allow him to serve for four months, potential jurors are now being asked their opinion on the death penalty in Phase 2 and whether they would be fair to Cruise. can.
Phase 3, as and when it starts, will include personal inquiries. Scherer is expecting 150 potential jurors for that stage, but just 35 have progressed beyond Phase 2, of which about 80 have been dismissed.