FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – A South Florida judge deferred her ruling on whether or not to release the confession of accused Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz after the Feb. 14 massacre that killed 17 people.
Media organizations want Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer to allow disclosure of the statement under public records law.
Cruz’s attorneys, however, want the entire statement suppressed, claiming it would improperly influence jurors in his trial.
“Simply because there is so much out there already does not mean what’s the difference with a little more,” said defense attorney Dave Frankel.
Florida law requires most evidence to be made public once it is turned over by prosecutors to the defense. It is illegal in the state to release a confession.
The state attorney’s office has offered to release a redacted version of the video. The entire video lasts 12 hours.
Judge Scherer deferred ruling on the issue, saying that if she approves the public release of any of the confession, she will give the defense 10 days to appeal.
Cruz, 19, walked into the courtroom with his head bowed and often kept his forehead on the table while attorney’s debated their motions before the judge.
His brother, Zachary, who has since moved out of South Florida, was in the courtroom.
Judge Scherer also denied without prejudice the defense’s motion to preserve most of the evidence and law enforcement, and first responder, notes in the case. The defense wants to have investigators keep materials, such as field notes, that may have some bearing on the case. The judge said their motion was too vague and if they could come up with more specific items in their motion she would consider it.
Anxious to move the proceedings along, the judge told the attorneys “I would like to block a date to work towards,” suggesting September 2019 could be a possible trial date.
Defense attorneys said it wasn’t enough time considering the state has 968 witnesses, 1260 documents and 283 police body cam videos.
Afterwards, when the judge learned that the defense was waiting on the final report of the mass shooting from the lead BSO homicide investigator, she ordered him to complete his paperwork by this Friday and give a copy to Cruz’s defense team.
There was also a motion concerning the release of Cruz’s school records, which is currently being presided by another judge. Cruz’s defense attorney’s want the decision to release any information concerning their client to be made by one judge. Scherer said the release of that report is a civil matter that is before Broward Circuit Judge Patti Englander Henning. Henning said last week that if she decides to make part of the report public, she will give Cruz’s lawyers five days to challenge the ruling.
Nikolas Cruz, 19, faces the death penalty. His attorneys say he would plead guilty in exchange for a life prison sentence, but prosecutors have rejected that offer.
The next hearing is scheduled for August.