FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) — Jury selection proceedings are underway for the upcoming trial of confessed Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz who is accused of attacking a Broward jail guard.
Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer is questioning 32 jurors at a time, making it clear this case is not about the 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.READ MORE: Prayer Vigil Scheduled Thursday For Slain Hollywood Police Officer Yandy Chirino
“Although Nikolas Cruz is the accused in the Parkland shooting, we are not here for the Parkland shooting. It is important to emphasize that you are not, that is you are not, being asked to serve as a juror on the Parkland shooting case,” said Scherer.
The judge pointedly told the potential jurors that Cruz is presumed to be innocent. She then asked if there were any people in the pool who knew Cruz or who did not think they could be objective in their decision. She’ll also asked if serving in the five day trial would present a great hardship.
Those who were excused from the pool were sent back to the jury pool to be considered for other trials.
On Monday, Cruz’s defense sought to delay the start of the trial, citing their lead counsel was seriously ill and was recently hospitalized.
Public defender David Wheeler got sick last week and was in the hospital for one night. He’s now recovering at home, according to the county’s chief public defender Gordon Weekes.
Scherer said a delay was not realistic.
“We’re talking about a second degree felony where the incident stems from a two minute altercation,” said Scherer.
Weekes argued that not allowing a continuance because Wheeler is sick puts Cruz in legal jeopardy.READ MORE: Miami-Dade Public Schools Could Ease Mask Mandate By End Of Month, Reports Herald
“I cannot just place anybody there. We have a number of skilled attorneys in our office but it is more to the preparation of the trial to be processed right over an individual, to have an attorney you have built a report with, that you have contact with, that you have communication with, that you can strategize with. That is what’s going to happen if the court just allows for, or encourages for, or forces us to place just anyone there,” he said.
Judge Scherer pointed out that other public defenders had been involved in his case
“There is a team of experienced lawyers that have been involved both directly or peripherally who, I understand it would be a burden to the public defender’s office to reassign them temporarily to be second or lead counsel in this case, however, as I have said, I’m more than willing to give that extra week or two that would take them off of that case to reassign them to this case,” said Scherer.
Scherer then ruled that jury selection would start on Tuesday, it’s expected to last through Friday. She also ruled that the trial will be delayed by a little more than a week and now begin on October 19th.
The case has been reassigned to Assistant Public Defender Jaclyn Broudy, who was hired by the office last year. Scherer asked Weekes to assign another counsel to assist Broudy.
Cruz, a former Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student is charged with assault and battery on a law enforcement officer after deputies say he attacked BSO Detention Sgt. Raymond Beltran back in November 2018.
Video from the jail appears to show Cruz walking around tables in a common area. He exchanged words with Beltran who told him “not drag his sandals around while in a jail dayroom,” according to the police report.
Cruz then reportedly flipped him off before rushing at Beltran, tackling him to the ground. Beltran was able to flip him over. They two then struggled over Beltran’s stun gun which went off but didn’t strike anyone. Cruz then slipped from Beltran’s grasp and allegedly punched him. Beltran then punched Cruz in the face, knocking him to the ground.
Back in September, Cruz’s defense tried to have the case dismissed. They argued that surveillance video before the scuffle happened was not preserved, and therefore denied him a fair trial. But Judge Scherer denied the motion, saying there was no due process violation.MORE NEWS: Arrest Affidavit: Accused Hollywood Cop Killer Jason Banegas Claims He Was Trying To Kill Himself In Struggle With Slain Officer Yandy Chirino
Cruz is jailed on charges of killing 14 students and three staff members and wounding 17 others at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High on February 14th, 2018. No date has been set for the murder trial. Scherer has been holding frequent hearings in recent weeks to consider issues that must be resolved before it begins. Prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty.