FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) — An entire panel of potential jurors in Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz’s death penalty trial, was dismissed Tuesday afternoon because of a perceived threat overhead by a Broward Sheriff’s deputy in the courtroom.

Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer explained what happened in court.

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“Number 19 was doing what you said, mouthing expletives and so on and so forth to the defendant which got number 9 excited and belligerent also which then went to number 25 who started to do the same type of thing. So as they are escorting 19 out, he turns around and they were under the impression he was going to try and come back at Mr. Cruz. Between that, number 9 and number 25, some of whom were wearing I guess masks that covered the majority of their face, they could not tell what was being said or what was going on other than there were three people that were in close proximity that were making a threat and there was another one in the back who started to join in and I guess with  a combination of all of that the sheriff’s office observed all of that and they felt the need to protect Mr. Cruz.”

Not long after that, the microphones were cut as the judge and deputies discussed Cruz’s safety.

A new jury panel was brought in and questioned later.

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On Monday, Judge Scherer started the jury selection process from scratch after prosecutors and defense attorneys argued that she made a mistake when she didn’t question 11 potential jurors who said they would not follow the law before she dismissed them.

In granting the motion filed by prosecutors, she nullified two weeks of work by prosecution and defense lawyers.

Cruz, 23, pleaded guilty in October to murdering 17 and wounding 17 at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2018.

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The 12-member jury that will be selected after a two-month, three-step winnowing process will decide if he is sentenced to death or life in prison without parole. Monday’s restart pushes back opening statements from their scheduled date of mid-June. They had already been delayed from May 31.

CBSMiami.com Team