FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The defense team for convicted Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz abruptly rested their case Wednesday, prompting Broward County Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer to chastise lead defense attorney Melisa McNeill for her unprofessionalism.
"We're not playing chess," Scherer said.
Scherer criticized McNeill for not letting anyone know ahead of time and wasting a day of court.
There had been no warning to the public, the prosecution or the judge.
Cruz, 23, didn't take the stand, and prosecutors weren't prepared to begin their rebuttal.
"I just want to say this is the most uncalled for, unprofessional way to try the case," Scherer said. "You all knew about this, and even if you didn't make your decision until this morning, to have 22 people, plus all of this staff and every attorney march into court, be waiting as if it's some kind of game, now I have to send them home. The state's not ready. They're not going to have a witness ready. We have another day wasted. Honestly, I have never experienced a level of unprofessionalism in my career. It's unbelievable."
McNeill, who has a history of terse exchanges with Scherer, tried to explain her decision, but Scherer didn't want to hear it.
"I have been practicing in this county for 22 years…" McNeill started to say before Scherer interrupted her.
"You know what, I don't want to hear it," Scherer said.
"Well, judge, you're insulting me on the record in front of my client and I believe that I should be able to defend myself," McNeill responded.
"OK, you can do that later, you can make your record later, but you've been insulting me the entire trial, blatantly, taking your headphones off, arguing with me, storming out, coming late intentionally if you don't like my rulings, so, quite frankly, this has been long overdue," Scherer said.
WATCH: Judge says defense attorney has been 'blatantly' insulting her all trial
Cruz pleaded guilty last year to killing 14 students and three staff members on Feb. 14, 2018, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
Jurors are being asked to decide whether Cruz should spend the rest of his life in prison or be sentenced to death for his crimes.
"We're running out of time," Scherer cautioned. "We have a pregnant juror – very pregnant."
Prosecutors said they will need more than a week to prepare their rebuttal. The trial is tentatively scheduled to resume next Tuesday.