Florida school shooter Nicholas Cruz’s attorneys and prosecutors are arguing whether his jury should inspect the blood-stained, bullet-packed classroom building where he killed 17 people four years ago.
Fort Lauderdale, Fla. – Florida school shooter Nicholas Cruz and his attorneys’ attorneys argued Wednesday that judges who decide whether to sentence him to death should be allowed to tour the blood-stained, bullet-packed classroom building. Four years ago, 17 people were killed.
Prosecutors have told Circuit Judge Elizabeth Shearer that Cruise, 23, will have to look through the three-story building at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on February 14, 2018, to try to understand the manner in which he carried out the systematic walk. He fired from his semi-automatic rifle as he went. Shortly after the shooting, the building was fenced off and sealed – dried blood, Valentine’s Day gifts and bullet holes still remain.
Cruz’s attorneys argued that the jury would already see extensive and terrifying security videos of the shooting, videos of crime scenes and photographs taken shortly after the shooting, and hear evidence about the building. They say the prosecution’s only wish is to arouse the judges’ emotions and vote with their emotions, not their intelligence.
Cruz pleaded guilty in October to killing 14 students and three staff members and attempting to kill 17 injured people. A jury election is set to begin Monday for a month-long sentencing trial that will determine whether former Stoneman Douglas student will receive life without the death penalty or parole. Sherry had previously ruled that judges could inspect the building, but that was before Cruz’s guilty plea. Defense said the application eliminated the need to inspect the building because prosecutors no longer had to prove his guilt.
The trial will decide whether the provocative causes of the murder – multiple deaths, plots, cruelty – are greater than the soothing causes of Cruz’s lifelong mental and emotional problems and the death of his parents.
Juries usually do not inspect crime scenes, but both parties can request if they believe the inspection will help members understand the case better. Whether they inspect depends on the judge.
Melissa McNeil, Cruz’s chief public defender, told Shearer that the building was no longer an accurate representation of what had happened because the Broward Sheriff’s Office had completely removed personal belongings without logging and taking pictures. He gave the court a video produced by his office showing what he saw while walking in the cruise halls, but removed all the blood, Valentine’s gifts and other crime scene elements. He said showing juurors would be a good option.
“If the purpose of the jury at the crime scene is to get them to see the place Mr. Cruz walked, the path he took, it could be done with a sanitized crime scene, if that’s really their (prosecution’s) intent,” McNeil said. Judges “don’t have to look at all the horrible things.”
But Assistant Prosecutor Caroline McCann told Shearer she could not replace any evidence of “murder” left in the school building. He said Cruz chose to shoot the people in the building. He chose to carry out his attack on Valentine’s Day. If a tour of the building aroused strong emotion, it was Cruz’s own work, he argued.
“There’s no video, no photograph, no poster, no film, anything that captures … what the building is,” McCann said. “The jury needs to know the footprints, the distance, the perspective, the visual acuity of the accused.”
Sherra said he would rule soon.
The building that rises above the Stoneman Douglas campus was a daily reminder of the shooting for students, staff and parents. The Broward County School District plans to demolish it after the trial.