FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — The prosecution spent three weeks telling jurors how Nikolas Cruz murdered 14 college students and three workers members at a Florida excessive school 4 years in the past. Now his attorneys will get their likelihood to present why they imagine he did it, hoping to get him sentenced to life with out parole as a substitute of loss of life.
Melisa McNeill, Cruz’s lead public defender, is predicted to give her opening assertion Monday, having deferred its presentation from the beginning of the trial a month in the past.
She and her staff will then start laying out their 23-year-old shopper’s life historical past: his delivery mom’s abuse of alcohol and cocaine throughout her being pregnant, main to potential fetal alcohol syndrome; his extreme psychological and emotional issues; his alleged sexual abuse by a “trusted peer;” the bullying he endured; and his adoptive father’s loss of life when he was 5 and his adoptive mom’s 4 months earlier than his Feb. 14, 2018, assault at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
McNeill’s resolution to delay her opening assertion appeared a part of a broader technique to not deny or reduce something prosecutors instructed jurors about Cruz’s bloodbath — he pleaded responsible in October to 17 counts of first-degree homicide. This trial is simply to resolve his sentence; the seven-man, 5 lady jury will think about whether or not the prosecution’s aggravating circumstances “outweigh” the protection’s mitigating components.
The protection is “going to say, ‘Look, you saw what happened — we are not going to argue that. It was horrible, that was awful, that was horrific, whatever adjectives you want to use,” said David S. Weinstein, a Miami defense attorney and former prosecutor. But then the defense will add: “He never had a chance and, because of that, his poor victims never had a chance.’”
This is the deadliest U.S. mass taking pictures to ever attain trial. Nine different gunmen who killed not less than 17 folks died throughout or instantly after their shootings, both by suicide or police gunfire. The suspect in the 2019 slaying of 23 folks at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, is awaiting trial.
During the prosecution’s case, McNeill’s staff by no means cross-examined any trainer or scholar who witnessed the slayings and solely had temporary, gentle exchanges with just a few different witnesses.
They requested one trainer from a classroom the place nobody was shot in regards to the lack of a safety monitor in the three-story constructing the place the slayings occurred. When the gun retailer proprietor who bought Cruz the AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle used in the killings testified, they requested what Florida’s minimal age was in 2017 to purchase a rifle — 18 — and immediately — 21.
Neither they nor the prosecutors then requested the shop proprietor why the regulation was modified: Cruz was 19 when the taking pictures occurred and the Republican-led Legislature raised the age restrict as half of a bigger bundle of gun legal guidelines enacted in response to the shootings.
Cruz’s youth can be a part of his protection and whereas Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer has barred the protection from presenting testimony that straight casts blame on third events like school directors for not stopping the taking pictures, McNeill and her staff will possible strive to not directly make such factors.
To get Cruz a life sentence, the protection will solely have to persuade one of many 12 jurors, however they’ll have to do it on all 17 counts, one for every sufferer. It is feasible, for instance, a reluctant juror is likely to be pushed to vote for loss of life on victims who surveillance video confirmed Cruz shot a number of instances as they lay wounded and helpless.
The protection can be making an attempt to overcome the horrendous proof that was laid out by the prosecution, capped by the jurors’ Aug. 4 go to to the fenced-off constructing that Cruz stalked for seven minutes, firing about 150 photographs down halls and into school rooms. The jurors noticed dried blood on flooring and partitions, bullet holes in doorways and home windows and remnants of Valentine’s Day balloons, flowers and playing cards.
Prosecutors additionally offered graphic surveillance movies of the bloodbath; grotesque crime scene and post-mortem images from its aftermath; emotional testimony from academics and college students who witnessed others die; and 4 days of tearful and indignant statements from dad and mom, spouses and different relations in regards to the victims and the way their liked one’s loss of life affected their lives. Jurors additionally watched video of Cruz calmly ordering a cherry and blue raspberry Icee minutes after the taking pictures and, 9 months later, attacking a jail guard.
It is unknown how lengthy the protection presentation will take, however they mentioned in court docket just lately that it’ll final previous Labor Day in two weeks. The prosecution will then get to present a rebuttal case earlier than it goes to the jury.
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