Jury selection for a trial resulting from a jail brawl involving suspected Parkland, Florida shooter Nikolas Cruz has been delayed due to complications, The Associated Press reported.
Nine months after authorities alleged that Cruz killed 14 students and three staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Cruz was charged with attacking Broward County Jail Warden Sergeant Raymond Beltran in November. 2018.
It will be difficult to find jurors capable of deciding his prison brawl case on the basis of evidence and not their knowledge of the Parkland shooting, AP reported.
Cruz’s trial was delayed Monday because his senior lawyer is hospitalized with an undisclosed illness. Circuit judge Elizabeth Scherer has ruled that jury selection will begin on Tuesday.
Jaclyn Broudy, Cruz’s second lawyer in the batteries case “is experienced and able to take over as lead counsel,” Scherer said.
The delay, Scherer said, will give Broward County Public Defender Gordon Weekes time to assign someone to help Broudy. Scherer suggested that Weekes appoint one of the public defenders representing Cruz in the murder case, but Weekes said they were busy preparing for this trial.
For more reporting by The Associated Press, see below.
Cruz’s trial for the February 14, 2018 murders remains unplanned. It has been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic and arguments over possible evidence and testimony. Throughout Monday’s hearing, the former Stoneman Douglas student sat quietly at the defense table, wearing a dark blue sweater and white shirt instead of the orange prison jumpsuit that he normally wore during preliminary hearings.
Weekes had asked Scherer to delay jury selection by two weeks so that a second lawyer could be fully briefed, but the judge said it was not a complicated case and would normally be dealt with by a single lawyer.
Cruz faces a 15-year sentence if he is found guilty of attempted bodily harm on a police officer and three less serious charges. Cruz will get the death sentence or life in prison without parole if he is later convicted of first degree murder, but this trial is still relevant.
If Cruz is found guilty of attacking Beltran, prosecutors can argue that this is an aggravating factor when requesting his execution during the sanction phase of his murder trial if found guilty.
Beltran told investigators that Cruz attacked him after asking him to stop dragging his feet and damaging his sandals. Cruz’s lawyers are expected to argue that Beltran used to mistreat Cruz and verbally instigated the fight, which was recorded by a security camera which does not capture audio.
Cruz’s murder trial is expected to last for months. His lawyers said he would plead guilty to 17 murders in exchange for a life sentence. Prosecutors rejected the offer, saying the case deserved a death sentence.