It's the Deadliest US Mass Shooting to Go to Trial

Jury selection begins in Parkland case to determine whether Nikolas Cruz will be executed
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 4, 2022 10:00 AM CDT
It's the Deadliest US Mass Shooting to Go to Trial
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in March.   (Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel via AP, Pool)

(Newser) – Jury selection in the deadliest US mass shooting ever to go to trial begins Monday, with the panel chosen to determine whether Nikolas Cruz will be put to death for murdering 17 students and staff members at a high school in Parkland, Fla. Court officials say 1,500 candidates or more could be brought before Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer, prosecutors, and Cruz's public defenders for initial screening over the next several weeks, per the AP. The final panel will comprise 12 jurors plus eight alternates. Cruz, 23, pleaded guilty in October to the Feb. 14, 2018, massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, meaning the jury will only decide if he receives a death sentence or life without parole.

Seven other US killers who fatally shot at least 17 people died during or immediately after their attacks, either by suicide or at the hands of police. The suspect in the 2019 massacre of 23 at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, is still awaiting trial. Death penalty trials in Florida and much of the country often take two years to start because of their complexity, but Cruz's was further delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic and extensive legal wrangling. On Mondays through Wednesdays for most of the next several weeks, prospective jurors will be brought into the courtroom in groups of 60.

They will be asked if they can put aside any animosity toward Cruz and judge the case fairly. They will then be asked if they're available from June through September. Out of each group, Scherer is hoping five remain. Candidates who pass those hurdles will be taken into another room, where they'll fill out a questionnaire on their backgrounds and beliefs for the lawyers to later review. They'll be brought back in several weeks for individual questioning. To qualify for the jury, they must say they can vote for the death penalty if the evidence supports that verdict, but also that they don't believe it should be mandatory for murder.

(Read more Parkland school shooting stories.)

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