Judge refuses to drop death penalty for Nikolas Cruz

Nikolas Cruz faces the death penalty during his trial due to open in January. File photo courtesy of the Broward County Sheriff | License photo

December 7 (UPI) – A Florida judge on Tuesday dismissed Nikolas Cruz’s request to remove the death penalty from consideration at his next sentencing hearing for the 2018 school shooting in Parkland.

Cruz pleaded guilty in October to 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder for the February 14, 2018 shooting, which left 14 students and three high school staff dead. Marjory Stoneman Douglas.

He still has to face the punishment phase of his trial in which a jury will decide whether to receive the death penalty.

Defense lawyers have said the death penalty should not be considered when sentencing, WFOR-TV in Miami reported. They said former prosecutor Michael Satz did not have a coherent policy calling for the death penalty.

Additionally, Deputy Public Defender Tamara Curtis said that if the death penalty were considered, the court should not allow survivors to read victim impact statements, which she said “will appeal and tend to overwhelm victims. emotions of the jurors ”. She said the statements would cause emotions to be too much taken into account in the jury’s deliberations, WTVJ-TV in Miami reported.

Curtis also called for the death penalty to be taken off the table, saying the fact that Cruz killed students and staff at a school should not be seen as a disruption of a public service and targeting of appointed officials – two aggravating factors for asking for the death penalty. .

Assistant District Attorney Carolyn McCann disagreed, saying Cruz “did not choose to target a mall with shoppers.”

“He chose to target the students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School … he disrupted the school and he hindered the school.”

Judge Elizabeth Scherer declined the defense arguments and said she would keep the death penalty as a possibility during Cruz’s sentencing hearing. Jury selection for sentencing is expected to begin on January 4.

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