The judge presiding over the deadliest mass shooting ever has ruled that the jury will be allowed to visit the bloodstained school building in Parkland, Florida, where gunman Nikolas Cruz murdered 17 people, the AFP reported. Associated Press.
The defense for Mr Cruz, 23, tried to argue that a visit to the facilities was not necessary, given that their client had pleaded guilty and, as they argued, there was sufficient evidence video and stills of the massacre that occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14, 2018.
Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer, however, saw things differently.
“The Court finds that a jury view of the crime scene remains useful and appropriate, even in light of the current status of the case,” Scherer wrote in a decision released Monday, according to The Associated Press.
“The purpose of a jury opinion is to help the jury analyze and apply the evidence presented at trial.”
Jury selection for what is expected to be a closely watched trial, as the panel will determine whether Mr. Cruz is sentenced to death or life without parole, began on Monday and is expected to take several weeks as the judge, prosecutors and Mr. Cruz’s public defenders select the final 12 jurors, plus eight alternates.
Prosecutors, who have argued for reopening the intact scene where Mr. Cruz methodically killed his peers and school staff, believe touring the facilities would help better understand the case. Although this is not always granted by the judges, the defense and the prosecutor are entitled to request it.
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has been fenced off and isolated from the public since the St. Valentine’s Day massacre, with reports indicating details such as blood on the floor where people were shot and holes in the wall remain intact.
Since the Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in the United States in 1976, Florida has put 99 people to death. But death penalty trials, of course, can take time.
In Florida, just like the rest of the country, they can even take up to two years to begin, and Mr. Cruz’s trial has already been delayed due to the ongoing pandemic and legal wrangling, while he will take from start to decision could be even more prolonged.
For Mr. Cruz, a former student of Majory Stoneman Douglas, to receive the death penalty, the jurors must all agree unanimously.
If any of the 12 jurors disagree that factors such as the number of people killed, the premeditation or the cruelty exercised on the 17 people murdered that day in February 2018 amount to a conviction to death, then Mr. Cruz will be sentenced to life. without parole.
The Associated Press contributed reporting.