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New date set for opening statements in sentencing trial for Nikolas Cruz

Jury selection draws closer to end as Parkland school shooter awaits fate
Judge Elizabeth Scherer on headset during jury selection for penalty phase of Nikolas Cruz murder trial, June 22, 2022
Posted at 4:50 PM, Jun 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-22 17:53:03-04

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Opening statements in the sentencing trial for convicted Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz are now scheduled to begin July 6.

Judge Elizabeth Scherer set the date Wednesday as jury selection drew closer to a close.

For nearly three months, attorneys have been questioning potential jurors as to whether they could be impartial in deciding life or death for Cruz, who pleaded guilty last year to killing 17 people in the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

But there have been plenty of delays – and another school shooting that shocked the nation – along the way.

A jury of 12 will be asked to decide whether the 23-year-old should spend the rest of his life in prison, without the possibility of parole, or be put to death for his crimes on Feb. 14, 2018.

Three dozen potential jurors entered the final round of questioning Wednesday. Lead prosecutor and former Broward County State Attorney Mike Satz asked personal questions in his quest to uncover any potential bias among those still in the jury pool.

"Have you ever had an unpleasant experience with a police officer that didn't amount to an arrest?" Satz asked one potential juror.

Assistant Public Defender Nawal Bashimam asked equally controversial questions.

Assistant Public Defender Nawal Bashimam questions potential jurors during jury selection for penalty phase of Nikolas Cruz murder trial, June 22, 2022
Assistant Public Defender Nawal Bashimam questions potential jurors during jury selection in the penalty phase of the trial of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz on Wednesday, June 22, 2022, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

"Who here thinks white privilege exists?" she said to the group.

The final stage of questioning also serves as a warning to jurors that the four months of testimony ahead will be emotional to endure.

"There will be photographs shown to you of slain children and educators in their school," Bashimam said.