Judge, Defense Argue Over Proposed January 2020 Trial Date For Confessed Parkland Shooter
The confessed-Parkland school shooter, Nikolas Cruz, had a bandage across the bridge of his nose as he stood and raised his handcuffed hand to address a Broward County Courtroom on Wednesday afternoon.
Cruz spoke for himself under oath, instead of letting his team of public defenders speak for him as he has done in the past. He told Judge Elizabeth Scherer that he waives his right to be present at future status hearings about his case, though he may have to be present at more substantive hearings.
When asked if he understood that he was giving up a right Cruz simply replied, "Yes."
Scherer then questioned Cruz to make sure he wasn't on any medication that could alter his ability to make a clear decision.
"I understand fully what you're saying," Cruz said.
His brother, Zachary Cruz, watched from a pew in the courtroom. He had two new tattoos on his face - a peace symbol and a broken heart.
The state of Florida is pursuing the death penalty for Cruz, for 17 charges of first-degree murder and 17 charges of attempted first-degree murder stemming from the massacre at marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2018.
Scherer wants Cruz's trial to begin in early January 2020.
"I have to set a tentative trial date," Scherer said.
Previously, she had been hoping to begin proceedings as early as September of this year.
Cruz's legal team of public defenders pushed back against the proposed January deadline, arguing they need more time to take depositions and interview more than 300 witnesses.
"We certainly don't want to create an unrealistic expectation in this community," Melisa McNeill said. She is one of Cruz's public defenders. "We do not believe that that is a realistic trial date."
The defense team has taken 91 out of 131 scheduled depositions so far, according to the public defense team.
"You all need to pace yourselves accordingly," Scherer said. "This case needs to move and I'm not going to change it today."
"There is still a tremendous amount of work that needs to be done," McNeill said.
Broward State Attorney, Michael Satz, who is prosecuting the case for the state says its legal team is on track, timewise.
"We're going to be ready for the first week of January," Satz said.
The next status hearing in the case is set for September 3rd.
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