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Attorneys move closer to seating jury in Parkland school shooter's sentencing trial

Prosecutors, defense attorneys seek to uncover any biases among potential jurors
Nawal Bashimam and Tamara Curtis adjust shirt collar of Nikolas Cruz before jury selection in penalty phase of murder trial, June 23, 2022
Posted at 3:58 PM, Jun 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-23 17:47:05-04

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — With less that two weeks before opening statements are expected to begin in the sentencing trial for Nikolas Cruz, the quest to find a fair and impartial jury pushed ahead Thursday.

As prosecutors and defense attorneys challenged potential jurors with a series of stringent questions, lead prosecutor Mike Satz tried to find out if they harbor any biases about law enforcement or firearms.

"How long have you owned your AK?" Satz asked one potential juror.

"Probably over a year," the potential juror answered.

"Have you every had an unpleasant experience with a law enforcement officer?" Satz asked.

Defense attorneys dug even deeper, seeking the jury's views on violent video games and animal abuse.

Kate O'Shea speaks with Nawal Bashimam during jury selection in penalty phase of Nikolas Cruz murder trial, June 23, 2022
Sentence mitigation specialist Kate O'Shea (right), a member of the defense team, speaks with Assistant Public Defender Nawal Bashimam during jury selection in the penalty phase of the trial of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz, Thursday, June 23, 2022, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

"Is it OK for a 12-, 13- or 14-year-old child to play a first-person shooter game?" defense attorney Nawal Bashimam asked.

"I think it's dependent on the individual child. Are they starting to reenact some of those things?" a potential juror answered.

Bashimam also sent a distinct message to prospective jurors that the violent images they'll be viewing during the trial will be graphic.

Nikolas Cruz speaks to capital defense attorney Casey Secor during break in jury selection for penalty phase of his murder trial, June 23, 2022
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz speaks with capital defense attorney Casey Secor at the defense table during a break in jury selection in the penalty phase of Cruz's trial, Thursday, June 23, 2022, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

"You will see photos of children and educators killed right in the school," she said. "You will also see photos of murder victims with bullet wounds, blood and other wounds that caused their death."

Cruz, 23, pleaded guilty to killing 14 students and three staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018. This trial is all about determining his punishment. It will be up to jurors to decide if he should face the death penalty or life in prison without parole.