FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami/AP) – Eleven potential jurors, who were dismissed by the judge during the jury selection process for Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz’s penalty trial, are scheduled to be back in the courtroom on Monday.
The potential jurors were dismissed by Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer after they said they could not follow the law and reach a fair verdict.
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Last Monday, however, Judge Scherer reversed herself after defense attorneys objected, saying they should have had the chance to further question the potential jurors. The same day she announced that the jury selection process would start over. As a result, almost 250 potential jurors who had said they could sit for a four-month trial will not be called back next month for further questioning. More than 1,200 candidates had been screened.
Prosecutors in the case have argued that the 11 potential jurors should not be brought back, since more time would be wasted if it turned out they had to be struck anyway. The prosecution maintained it had just as much right to question potential jurors and to an untainted final panel as the defense.
Cruz, 23, pleaded guilty in October to murdering 17 and wounding 17 at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2018.
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Given Cruz’s notoriety and the hatred, many in the community have for him, finding jurors who can be fair promises to be an excruciatingly long process. Jurors who pass the first stage by saying they can serve four months complete questionnaires about their backgrounds and their beliefs on the death penalty. Those are given to both sides. The prospects will be brought back in several weeks for further questioning, including whether they can be fair to Cruz.
The jurors who are selected will decide whether aggravating factors — the multiple deaths, the planning Cruz put into the killings and the cruelty with which they were carried out — outweigh mitigating factors such as the defendant’s lifelong mental and emotional problems, possible sexual abuse and the death of his parents.
For Cruz to be executed, the jury must vote unanimously for death. If one or more vote against it, he will be sentenced to life without parole.
Opening statements for the penalty trial are scheduled for mid-June.
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(© Copyright 2022 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)