FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) - Jury selection is set to begin Monday in the penalty phase for confessed Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School gunman Nikolas Cruz.
During hearings this week, Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer addressed the remaining issues ahead of jury selection.
During Wednesday's hearing, attorneys for Cruz and prosecutors argued over whether the jurors who will decide whether he is sentenced to death should be allowed to tour the blood-stained, bullet-pocked classroom building where he went on his murderous shooting spree four years ago.
Prosecutors told Judge Scherer that the jurors need to see the path Cruz, 23, took through the three-story building on the school's campus to understand the carnage he unleashed as he walked methodically floor-to-floor, firing his semi-automatic rifle as he went. Shortly after the shooting on February 14th, 2018, the building was fenced off and sealed — the dried blood, Valentine's Day gifts and bullet holes still in place.
Cruz's attorneys argued that the jurors will already see extensive and gruesome security video of the shooting, crime scene video and photos taken immediately after the shooting and hear testimony about the building. They said the prosecution's only desire is to inflame the jurors' passions and get them to vote with their emotions, not their intellect.
Cruz pleaded guilty in October 2021 to 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder.
Jury selection runs through Wednesday, April 6th. A second session will be held April 11-13, then a week off, and it resumes on April 25th.
Attorneys are planning to qualify 20 jurors.
Once they seat the jury the trial itself will begin. That date is determined by how long jury selection takes.
Potential jurors will be told the penalty phase will take four to six months and includes April in the timeline.
Judge Scherer previously ruled that jurors could tour the building, but that was before Cruz's guilty plea. The defense said the plea eliminated the need to tour the building because prosecutors no longer had to prove his guilt.
The jury will decide whether he is sentenced to death or to life in prison without parole.
For Cruz to be sentenced to death, the 12-member jury must unanimously agree. If one disagrees, he will receive a life sentence.
(© Copyright 2022 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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