Defense demands removal of judge in Florida School shooting case

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (UKTN) – Lawyers for Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz asked the judge in his murder trial to remove himself on Friday, two days after berating them for abruptly putting their case to rest after meeting only a fraction of their expected witnesses.

The Broward Public Defender’s Office said in a motion that Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer harbored a longstanding animosity towards lead attorney Melisa McNeill.

The motion cited Florida’s code of conduct stating that a judge must disqualify himself if the judge’s impartiality can reasonably be called into question, including but not limited to cases where the judge has a personal bias or bias regarding a party or a party’s attorney. Defense attorneys said Scherer’s repeated inappropriate and unwarranted attacks on defense counsel undermine public confidence in the judiciary and have also scared Cruz that he will not receive a fair trial.

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Shooter Nikolas Cruz of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is seen after the defense team announced their intention to rest their case during the penalty phase of Thursday’s trial in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Prosecutors said in response that Scherer has been respectful of both sides.

Cruz’s lawyers had told the judge and prosecutors they would call 80 witnesses, but surprisingly they rested at the start of Wednesday’s trial after calling only about 25 of them.

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There were a total of 11 days of defense testimony, the last two spotlighting experts on how his birth mother’s heavy alcohol use during pregnancy might have affected his brain development and led to his death four years ago. 17 people killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

The sudden announcement by lead attorney McNeill sparked a heated argument between her and Scherer, who called the decision without warning to her or the prosecution “the most inappropriate, unprofessional way to adjudicate a case.”

Seen on Monday, Judge Elizabeth Scherer reprimanded Nikolas Cruz's defense team last week after they abruptly dropped their case after calling only a fraction of their expected witnesses.
Seen on Monday, Judge Elizabeth Scherer reprimanded Nikolas Cruz’s defense team last week after they abruptly dropped their case after calling only a fraction of their expected witnesses.

Sun Sentinel via Getty Images

Scherer then accused Cruz’s lawyers of being inconsiderate to everyone involved, but especially the jurors for wasting their trip to court.

Cruz, 23, pleaded guilty last October to the murder of 14 Stoneman Douglas students and three staff members on February 14, 2018. His trial, now ending its second month, is only to determine whether he will be sentenced to death or life without prison. conditional release . For a death sentence, the jury must be unanimous.

After his lawyers rested, Cruz told Scherer he agreed with the decision.

Prosecutors said it will take them more than a week to prepare their rebuttal case. The trial will now provisionally resume on September 27 and end the week of October 10.

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