Trial of Parkland shooter set to resume in June

The trial will take place this summer, after jury selection complications

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Amy Beth Bennett/AP Newsroom

Assistant Public Defender Melisa McNeill introduces members of the defense team to prospective jurors during jury pre-selection in the penalty phase of the trial of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. on Tuesday, April 12, 2022

The perpetrator of one of the deadliest school shootings in American history will face sentencing after pleading guilty to all 34 charges, including murder and attempted murder, in October 2021. During the sentencing phase, a jury will decide his punishment. 

This decision will be a thorough and long awaited verdict that will not be decided in one day. ”

The then 19-year old school shooter killed 14 students and three staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on Valentine’s Day in 2018.

During the week of April 4th, the juror selection process started for the sentencing phase. However, it is an extensive process, especially for a hearing of this magnitude. It could take months just to decide the jurors and not even begin sentencing. 

The process to try and sentence the shooter is four years in the making and dealt with another delay this month when Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer ruled Monday that she will restart the jury selection process. Her decision is based on the fact she should have questioned potential jurors who said they would not follow the law before she dismissed them. Jurors were dismissed before the defense attorney’s could question them, and are now being recalled to be questioned. 

According to ABC News, an initial panel of 60 prospects were asked if they could serve in a hearing expected to last months. 

Of the 60 who signed up, 18 were brought back for questioning by the judges and lawyers in the case to discuss their views on the death penalty, which the prosecution is seeking for the shooter.

With jury selection restarting to select the 12 jurors and 8 alternates, testimony is scheduled to begin June 21. The jury will decide if Cruz will receive the death penalty or life in prison without parole. 

For him to receive the death penalty, all 12 jurors have to agree that his prelimiting factors such as mental illness and the death of his parents do not outweigh the murders and cruelty of the shooting. If they disagree and suggest that those issues were a factor in the murders themselves, he will receive life in prison without parole. 

This decision will be a thorough and long awaited verdict that will not be decided in one day. 

While it has been more than four years since the tragedy, there are several reasons why it’s taken this long to get to the sentencing, including the complications for a trial arguing for the death penalty.  

In this case, the factors lengthening the process to four years is due to COVID-19, and investigating mental health and gun conduct in the state of Florida. 

The shooting was the impetus for the March For Our Lives campaign, in which New Trier students participated, along with law changes in gun laws, and school security changes in not only Florida, but around the country, including at New Trier.