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What appeared to be a threat from a member of the jury led officers to surround and shield Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz, fearing the incident could turn violent.
A group of 70 potential jurors for Cruz’s sentencing trial were filing in a courtroom in Broward County, Florida, after a lunch break on Tuesday, when Cruz’s attorneys briefed bailiffs on the actions of one of the jurors. According to the Associated Press, the man had uttered profanities at Cruz, leading bailiffs to remove him.
PARKLAND SCHOOL SHOOTER NIKOLAS CRUZ CONVICTION PHASE OF TRIAL BEGINS WITH JURY SELECTION
The juror shook his head, repeating “it’s horrible”. The commotion then led other jurors to “get excited”, Circuit Court Judge Elizabeth Scherer said. As he was led out of the courtroom, the juror looked at Cruz, causing the deputies to grab the defendant and surround him.
“There’s incitement and then there’s a lot of supporters,” Capt. Osvaldo Tianga of Sheriff Broward, who leads courthouse security, told the AP.
Cruz’s attorney, Melisa McNeill, meanwhile said that while she “appreciates[s] that’s the job,” she wondered if it was necessary for the deputies to grab her client instead of standing right in front of him.
Once the chaos subsided, Judge Scherer met with lawyers from both sides before deciding whether to fire the entire group of 70 people. The judge said deputies followed them out of the building to make sure they didn’t say anything to sway other potential jurors who were still waiting their turn.
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Scherer said some dismissed jurors “mocked” officers as they were led away.
Cruz pleaded guilty in October to the 2018 murder of 17 people at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. A jury is currently being selected for a trial that will determine whether Cruz is sentenced to death or life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Jury selection began on April 4 and has had its share of controversy. Early on, a female juror explained to the judge that she wasn’t sure the trial – which is expected to run from June to September – would fit into her planned schedule, as she has family birthdays coming up, and has said, “I have my sugar daddy that I see every day.”
“I don’t know exactly what you’re talking about,” Scherer said, prompting the woman to explain, “I’m married and I have my daddy,” whom she sees “every day.”
She was eventually fired.
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On Monday, Scherer dismissed 250 potential jurors and restarted jury selection due to his own possible error.
Of the hundreds of potential jurors, 12 will be selected for the panel, in addition to eight alternates.
Michael Ruiz and Matteo Cina of Fox News, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.