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Jurors sworn in for Nikolas Cruz's sentencing trial

Opening statements now set for July 18
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz is shown at the defense table during jury selection in the penalty phase of his trial at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale on Wednesday, June 29, 2022.
Posted at 10:54 AM, Jun 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-29 17:58:47-04

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Jury selection concluded Wednesday in the penalty phase for the convicted Parkland school shooter.

After nearly three months, a panel of 12 jurors was chosen Tuesday.

Seven men and five women will have to decide if Nikolas Cruz should face the death penalty or life in prison without parole for killing 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018.

Cruz, 23, has already pleaded guilty to the massacre.

After hours of scrutiny from attorneys Wednesday, 10 alternate jurors were also chosen to serve on the trial.

Twenty-one of the 22 jurors were officially sworn in by Judge Elizabeth Scherer. The final juror is currently out of town and will be sworn in at a later date.

Judge Elizabeth Scherer speaks with, from left; capital defense attorney Casey Secor, Assistant State Attorney Steven Klinger, and Assistant Public Defender Melisa McNeill during jury selection in the penalty phase of the trial of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale on Wednesday, June 29, 2022.
Judge Elizabeth Scherer speaks with, from left; capital defense attorney Casey Secor, Assistant State Attorney Steven Klinger, and Assistant Public Defender Melisa McNeill during jury selection in the penalty phase of the trial of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale on Wednesday, June 29, 2022.

Alternates serve as regular jurors and don’t know that they are the alternate jurors until it's time for deliberations.

Cruz's defense team voiced concerns Wednesday that too much information is being made public about the jurors and fears that they could be identified.

RELATED: Defense seeks to dismiss some evidence in Parkland school gunman's sentencing trial

The jury represents a diverse cross-section of the community with different ages, races and economic backgrounds.

The jurors include a financial executive, a state probation officer, a computer technician, a librarian and a stock supervisor at Walmart.

Members of the defense team, from top left: disposition specialist Gabrielle Darden, Assistant Public Defender Tamara Curtis, sentence mitigation specialist Kate O'Shea, Assistant Public Defender Melisa McNeill, and capital defense attorney Casey Secor speak during jury selection in the penalty phase of the trial of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale on Wednesday, June 29, 2022.
Members of the defense team, from top left: disposition specialist Gabrielle Darden, Assistant Public Defender Tamara Curtis, sentence mitigation specialist Kate O'Shea, Assistant Public Defender Melisa McNeill, and capital defense attorney Casey Secor speak during jury selection in the penalty phase of the trial of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale on Wednesday, June 29, 2022.

At least one juror owns an AR-15. The same weapon that was used in the massacre.

Legal analysts said it's critical to have additional jurors hear the case.

"It's just basically another way to make sure that there's backup and that you don't have to present the case all over again from start to finish because somebody was not able to finish their duties alternates or serve as regular jurors," Melba Pearson, director of policy and programs at Florida International University's Green School of International and Public Affairs, said. "They don't know necessarily that they're the alternates until it's time for deliberation, that they hear everything the same way as the other jurors. The only folks that know that they're alternates are the judge and the end both parties — the prosecution as well as defense."

Opening statements have been pushed back once again.

The trial is now set for July 18 and is expected to last through October.