FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – Accused mass shooter Nikolas Cruz was back in court Wednesday afternoon, two days after marking his 20th birthday behind bars.
At his monthly status hearing, Cruz kept his head up and seemed focused on the legal proceedings as attorneys prepare for his upcoming murder trial.
Public defender Melisa McNeill argued the state attorney’s office or the Broward Sheriff’s office violated a court order by turning over Cruz’s mental health records to the Public Safety commission investigating the Stoneman Douglas massacre.
“These are private, federally protected files they are not authorized to have,” said McNeill.
The state denied they did anything wrong and the judge didn’t make a ruling on whether to have a hearing.
Then the lawyers sparred over who should be deposed for trial.
Special public defender Dave Frankel said that even though prosecutors relegated some witnesses to non-priority status, they deserved priority standing
“These people may have information. What if they say Nikolas Cruz Told me I don’t want to die alone. That could be a mitigating factor,” said Frankel, referring to information the jury could weigh in deciding what penalty to impose if Cruz is convicted.
While Cruz’s lawyers say he is ready to plead guilty to killing 17 people to avoid the death penalty, there is no plea deal on the table.
“It’s the state’s contention the defense is delaying. They haven’t taken one deposition,” said Assistant State Attorney Jeff Marcus.
Finally Judge Elizabeth Scherer told the attorneys she wanted to see 25 depositions done in the next 45 days.
Cruz’s next hearing is November 15th.