Parkland school shooting defense is granted delay in trial start

Florida

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP/WFLA) — Attorneys for Parkland school shooting defendant Nikolas Cruz asked a judge Thursday to delay the planned late January start of his trial in the February 2018 massacre that killed 17 people.

The defense lawyers provided their arguments to Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer that the case is moving far too rapidly. They claim legal errors could occur that would result in a reversal on appeal and trigger yet another high-profile trial.

“We are doing everything we can to make sure that we move this case along without the expense of Mr. Cruz’s constitutional rights to due process,” the defense attorneys said.

Scherer granted their wish and has decided to not begin with jury selection on Jan. 27 and instead have a March 23 status update/calendar call.

The goal is to start the trial by the summer of 2020.

Prosecutors were pushing to have the trial begin with jury selection beginning Jan. 27. Up until this point, Scherer insisted on keeping that date for probably the biggest trial in the county’s history.

In a court filing Wednesday, however, prosecutors “in an abundance of caution” said they would not object if the trial starts a few months later, in May.

Cruz, 21, faces 17 counts of first-degree murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the Valentine’s Day 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. He faces the death penalty if convicted, although his lawyers say he will plead guilty in return for a life prison sentence.

In their motion, defense lawyers noted that of 38 capital punishment cases in Broward County since 1994, the average time they remained pending between arrest and trial was 52 months, or a little over four years.

If the court kept with the initial trial timeline, Cruz’s trial would’ve began less than two years after the mass shooting on Feb. 14, 2018. He was arrested that same day. Defense lawyers say for that reason, it is far too fast for them to adequately prepare a defense in a case of such magnitude.

The defense motion also points out there are at least 1,000 witnesses identified by prosecutors in the case, and each of them must be interviewed by Cruz’s lawyers. There are about 4 million pages of evidence, thousands of photos, videos, and social media posts and much more.

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