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Nikolas Cruz's defense team seeks to exclude swastikas, racial slurs, child pornography comments

Psychologist testifies that Cruz had strong desire to kill
Nikolas Cruz in court, July 6, 2022
Posted at 3:37 PM, Jul 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-06 17:45:58-04

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Attorneys are taking a closer look at what evidence the jury should see during the sentencing trial for the convicted Parkland school shooter.

Prosecutors stood firm Wednesday in their argument that Nikolas Cruz's online behavior is a gateway to his thoughts and plan to carry out the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School four years ago.

However, defense attorneys want certain key pieces of evidence thrown out.

Central to the debate is Cruz’s use of swastikas, his social media posts and internet searches.

Michael Brannon in court July 6, 2022
Forensic psychologist Michael Brannon receives documents from Assistant Public Defender Tamara Curtis during a hearing 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, July 6, 2022. Cruz previously plead guilty to all 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the 2018 shootings.

"This is somebody who absolutely 110% has no capacity or understanding for how to deal with negative affect, particularly anger," psychologist Dr. Michael Brannon said Wednesday.

Brannon delivered compelling testimony during a pre-trial hearing, sharing extensive internet searches and the graphic Instagram captions that Cruz posted online in the years leading up to the mass shooting.

Cruz's comments were filled with his obsession with child pornography, racist remarks and his strong desire to kill others.

"I wish you Black people would just disappear, you’re nothing in society," Brannon testified in court Wednesday referring to comments that Cruz made. "That's why in 2020 you'll hear me on the news, and I will kill as many Black people as I can, and I will make sure I will kill a lot. I will wear body armor, and I will be heavily armed."

Prosecutors also pointed to a swastika that Cruz etched on the AR-15 that was used to gun down 17 people on Feb. 14, 2018.

The defense called that evidence inflammatory, prejudicial, and irrelevant to the case.

Judge Elizabeth Scherer in court July 6, 2022
Judge Elizabeth Scherer is shown during a hearing 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, July 6, 2022. Cruz previously plead guilty to all 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the 2018 shootings.

Brannon diagnosed Cruz with an anti-social personality disorder and was deliberate in his plan for the attack.

Defense attorneys argue that Cruz suffers from a developmental disorder associated with fetal alcohol exposure.

It's unclear when Judge Elizabeth Scherer will make a ruling on whether this evidence can be used in the sentencing trial.

A 12-panel jury for the case was sworn in last week.

Opening statements are scheduled to begin July 18.