FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida – A judge on Wednesday postponed the penalty trial of Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz until February.
Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer said in a court order both sides had requested more time to prepare experts for trial, saying they would not be ready to start on the scheduled date of January 4. Scherer has postponed the trial until February 21.
Cruz pleaded guilty in October to 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the February 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. Once the jurors are selected, they will decide whether he is sentenced to death or to life without parole.
For Cruz to be condemned to death, the jury of 12 members must agree unanimously. Scherer decided earlier this month to allow the families of the victims to testify, rejecting an attempt by Cruz’s lawyers to bar parents and others from speaking directly to the jury.
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Lawyers argued that this could result in “overly emotional displays” that would violate Cruz’s right to a fair trial.
The trial has been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic and arguments over what evidence and testimony will be allowed.