Prosecutors want Florida massacre suspect's medical records

Posted at 8:39 AM, May 28, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-29 05:19:00-04

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Prosecutors want access to medical and possible mental health records of the former student charged with last year's Florida school massacre, telling a judge Tuesday they are legally entitled to review them as they could be tied to other evidence.

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Prosecutors want records from an orthopedist who treated a broken arm or hand Nikolas Cruz suffered about three weeks before the Feb. 14, 2018, shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that left 17 dead and a psychologist who may have treated him. Cruz's attorneys said that would violate his state and federal privacy rights.

Assistant State Attorney Justin Griffis told Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer that in social media video posts made almost two weeks before the shooting, a person believed to be Cruz is seen wearing a cast and in one it appears the person had tried to cut it off. In the videos, which were played for Scherer, the person talks about his plans to carry out a massacre at Stoneman Douglas with hopes of killing at least 20 people.

Griffis said that although the person appears to be Cruz and the posts are tied to him by name and through his computer and cellphone, showing he wore a cast during that period would further prove the videos are his. He also said that if Cruz removed the cast himself early, it would enhance the prosecution's contention that Cruz planned the attack as it would have enhanced his ability to fire his semi-automatic rifle.

Also, in a social media exchange, a person identifying himself as Cruz told someone he planned to kill an African American as soon as his hand healed, using a racial slur.

For the psychologist, Griffis said Cruz had the therapist's card in his pocket when he was arrested about an hour after the shooting. Cruz told officers after his arrest and a detective hours later that he heard a demon's voice, telling the investigator it ordered him to kill. Griffis said that if the doctor treated Cruz, prosecutors need to know what treatment he received and whether he ever discussed hearing demons.

Assistant Public Defender Joseph Burke told Scherer the prosecutors don't need the orthopedic records to show it's Cruz on the video. Burke said prosecutors are entitled to the mental health records only if Cruz's attorneys file notice that they plan to use an insanity defense. They haven't done that.

Scherer said she would rule by the end of the week.

Cruz, a 20-year-old former Stoneman Douglas student, has pleaded not guilty. His attorneys have said he would plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

His trial is tentatively scheduled to begin early next year.