FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) — Confessed Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz was back in court on Tuesday, via Zoom, for a status hearing ahead of his upcoming sentencing trial.

Cruz and his lawyers appeared virtually at the hearing, where Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer scheduled additional status hearings for Jan. 24 and Feb. 2.

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The hearings will be held to discuss any issues and motions prior to the start of jury selection in the sentencing trial on Feb. 21.

Cruz pleaded guilty in October 2021 to 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the February 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

Once jurors are selected, they 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. Cruz’s defense team has tried to get the death penalty taken off the table to no avail.

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Scherer decided earlier to allow the victims’ families to testify, rejecting an attempt by Cruz’s attorneys to bar parents and others from speaking directly to the jury.

The attorneys argued that could result in “overly emotional displays” that would violate Cruz’s right to a fair trial.

But Scherer agreed with prosecutors, who said the statements will be written in advance and given to Cruz’s attorneys before the parents read them to the jurors. The defense will have an opportunity to object if they believe anything that will be said would be unfairly inflammatory, the judge and prosecutors said. Scherer had already ordered that the parents or others cannot call Cruz such phrases as “animal” or “that thing.”

 

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The trial has been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic and arguments over what evidence and testimony will be permitted.

CBSMiami.com Team