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Hollywood Middle Schoolers Sit In On Hearing For Confessed Parkland Shooter During Field Trip

Parkland school shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz in Judge Scherer's courtroom with his attorney Gabriel Ermine in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. this week.
The Sun Sentinel via press pool
Parkland school shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz in Judge Scherer's courtroom with his attorney Gabriel Ermine in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. this week.

The confessed Parkland shooter was in a Broward County courtroom Tuesday for a hearing. 


Nikolas Cruz, 21, faces 17 charges of first degree murder and 17 charges of attempted murder for the 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

As the hearing began, a group of more than 10 seventh graders from Apollo Middle School, in Hollywood, filed in to sit in the pews and observe. Cruz spoke quietly to his group of attorneys nearby. 


According to the students' teacher, Fenoune Sainvil, the group is a law studies class and were on a field trip to tour the courthouse. The visit to the Cruz hearing was not planned in advance. Sainvil said some of the students are interested in pursuing future careers as prosecutors, and the opportunity to sit in on the hearing "popped up" while they were on their scheduled tour. 

"They know what happened," Sainvil said. "We knew it was mostly just motions." 

A spokesperson for Broward County Public Schools told WLRN in an email:“The student permission forms include that they may have an opportunity to enter a courtroom to watch a trial." 

Broward Public Schools also said that that the principal has reached out to the parents of the students who were brought into the hearing. 

In a follow up statement, a different spokesperson told WLRN, "The school administration continues to look into this and is in communication with students and families regarding the matter."

The next hearing in Cruz's case is scheduled for Dec. 19. The judge is expected to consider a defense motion to delay the trial. It was filed this week. Currently, the trial is slated to begin with jury selection on Jan. 27.

Defense lawyers who claim the case is moving much too swiftly and runs the risk of legal errors. That could mean a conviction of Cruz might be reversed on appeal, sending it back for another high-profile trial, according to a report from the Associated Press.

Cruz faces the death penalty if he is convicted. His defense has maintained that he will plead guilty in return for a life prison sentence. 

Broward State Attorney Mike Satz is the chief prosecutor on the case.

The defense’s motion suggests that one reason for the accelerated schedule is that Satz, retiring in 2020 after 44 years as top prosecutor, wants to get a conviction of Cruz next year. Another reason, the defense says, is that Scherer is up for re-election, and a third is simply the massive media attention the massacre has received.

The defense motion notes that 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.

Scherer is set to hear the arguments to delay the trial, at 3 p.m. on Dec. 19. 

This report has been supplemented by feed from the Associated Press.

Copyright 2020 WLRN 91.3 FM. To see more, visit WLRN 91.3 FM.

Caitie Switalski is a rising senior at the University of Florida. She's worked for WFSU-FM in Tallahassee as an intern and reporter. When she's in Gainesville for school, Caitie is an anchor and producer for local Morning Edition content at WUFT-FM, as well as a digital editor for the station's website. Her favorite stories are politically driven, about how politicians, laws and policies effect local communities. Once she graduates with a dual degree in Journalism and English,Caitiehopes to make a career continuing to report and produce for NPR stations in the sunshine state. When she's not following what's happening with changing laws, you can catchCaitielounging in local coffee shops, at the beach, or watching Love Actually for the hundredth time.
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