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The prosecutor seeking the death sentence for Florida school gunman Nikolas Cruz let the facts speak for themselves as he presented his case: chilling testimonies; heartbreaking statements from parents and spouses; chilling surveillance videos; gruesome autopsy and crime scene photos; and to cap off Thursday’s jury walk through the three-story building where it happened, bloodstains and Valentine’s Day cards still clinging to the floors.
Lead prosecutor Mike Satz, the 80-year-old former Broward County prosecutor, then dropped his case against the defendant who murdered 14 students and three staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on February 14, 2018.
Cruz’s attorneys repeatedly objected that Satz’s case went beyond what is permitted or required by law and was designed primarily to inflame jurors’ emotions — objections dismissed by Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer.
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There was never any doubt that Satz would be able to prove the murders were “cold, calculated, and premeditated,” that Cruz’s actions were “heinous, cruel, or cruel” and “to many individuals a great risk.” constituted” and four other aggravating circumstances listed in Florida’s law that qualify him for a possible death sentence. But Satz also had to give them weight, since the jury agreed they must “outweigh” the mitigating circumstances that the defense will soon present.
“I didn’t think there were any surprises, but what surprises could there have been?” said Bob Jarvis, a law professor at Nova Southeastern University in suburban Fort Lauderdale. “The jury knew what Cruz had done. … The question that kept running through my mind was, “Was it too much?”
“He did a fantastic job,” said David S. Weinstein, a criminal defense attorney and former Miami district attorney. “He built a case that I think gave the jury more than enough to find those aggravating factors and was not overdone at all.”
After a week-long hiatus, the sides will spend a week without the jury to argue before Judge Scherer about what evidence Cruz’s defense can present about how his birth mother’s alcohol and drug abuse during pregnancy affected his brain and whether defects can be seen on scans.
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Jennifer Zedalis, a law professor at the University of Florida, said such disputes over fetal alcohol syndrome scans go back 20 years.
“Brain scans, MRIs, we can learn from them — the argument will be about whether the evidence meets the accepted standard of relevance and reliability,” Zedalis said. She said if the admissibility of the evidence was borderline, she would expect the judge to side with Cruz’s attorneys, since the appellate courts have said “a defendant on trial for his life deserves wide latitude “.
Cruz, 23, pleaded guilty to 17 counts of first-degree murder in October; The trial is designed solely to determine whether the former Stoneman-Douglas student should be sentenced to death or life in prison without parole. Once they begin deliberation, likely in a few weeks, the jury will vote for each victim separately. For any death sentence, the jury must be unanimous or the sentence for that victim is life.
After Scherer rules, lead defense attorney Melisa McNeill is expected to make her opening statement on August 22, and then she and her team will present their case.
“That’s where the process really begins,” Jarvis said.
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Instead, they are expected to focus on his life, beginning with his birth mother’s addiction; his severe emotional and behavioral problems that began in preschool and the gaps in his treatment; the death of his adoptive father when he was 5; the death of his adoptive mother three months before the shooting; his alleged sexual abuse by a “trustworthy colleague”; that he was an immature 19-year-old; and the bullying he endured from his brother and his brother’s friends.
McNeill and her team are unlikely to downplay the seriousness of Cruz’s actions — they have admitted in court several times that the killings were horrific and wiped away tears as some parents testified about their dead child.
The defense will argue, “If you send him to his death, you’re ignoring all of that, and that’s just plain wrong,” Jarvis said.
Weinstein said the defense had a tough job. The jury all swore they could vote for either life or death based on the evidence. Even if the defense can show some mitigating factors, he said, it will be difficult for those to outweigh the 17 people murdered in cold blood.
“I don’t think there’s a way to sympathize with Cruz that he’s not as bad as prosecutors said,” Jarvis said. “Instead, they have to show that he’s a victim, that he fell through the cracks, that society failed him from the start. … Society created this monster and failed to stop this monster.”
Weinstein said prosecutors will argue whether the death penalty “is not appropriate in these circumstances, why do we have it? What could be more outrageous than this?”
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https://globalnews.ca/news/9043182/parkland-shooting-trial-prosecutor/ Parkland shooting trial: Here’s a look at prosecutor’s arguments – National