FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) — Jury selection continued Wednesday at the Broward County Courthouse for confessed Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz’s battery trial.
During the proceeding, the prosecution asked Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer to stop the defense from allowing Cruz to use colored pencils and coloring books in court.READ MORE: Man Held Without Bond In Killing Of Baby, Babysitter In Coral Springs
They called it a ploy to convince potential jurors that Cruz is a child and has mental health issues.
Cruz’s attorneys said they only gave him colored pencils, and not coloring books, and that the state should not be concerned with what he does in court.
Judge Scherer said the colored pencils give the impression that he is a child and said that for security reasons he should only be allowed a pen which must be visible at all times.
On Tuesday nearly 70 potential jurors were picked in preparation for the start of proceedings set for Tuesday, October 19th. Six final jurors will be picked to hear the case, the day before, Monday October 18th
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.
“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 also asked if serving in the five day trial would present a great hardship.
On Tuesday, a few potential jurors broke down in the courtroom and were excused.READ MORE: Report: South Florida Counties Have High COVID Levels, Despite CDC Numbers
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 Beltran before rushing at him, 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.
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.
While this case isn’t about the Parkland massacre it could have implications for that trial.
“What the state is doing is coming up with aggravating factors,” said prominent defense attorney Jim Lewis.
Lewis represents the couple who took Cruz in after his mother died. It was only a few months before the Parkland shooting.
Aggravating factors will be used by prosecutors to argue for the death penalty for Cruz, according to Lewis. If prosecutors get a conviction at the battery trial, they can use it to show Cruz’s pattern of aggression.
However, Lewis feels even if Cruz is convicted at both trials, and receives the death penalty it will be overturned at the Supreme Court level because of his age at the time of the offenses and other factors.MORE NEWS: COVID-19 Testing Site Finder
“His mother died, he was bullied, and had mental health issues. It’s textbook mitigating” he said.