Jury Selection for Parkland Shooter Gets Testy

Defense team asks to withdraw from case, then asks same of judge; both motions were denied
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 7, 2022 1:00 PM CDT
Parkland Shooter's Lawyers Seek to Withdraw
Judge Elizabeth Scherer speaks in court as the defense asks for a continuance due to an ill attorney 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, Fla., on Monday.   (Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel via AP, Pool)

Two months after jury selection began in the trial to determine whether Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz will face the death penalty or life in prison, various disputes and a hospitalization prevented the court from moving past the first phase of questioning. Defense attorney Casey Secor was revealed to be in the hospital last month, "which brought the second phase of questioning to a standstill," reports WPTV. Lately described as "in quarantine," he failed to appear in court on Monday, per WPLG. The defense then sought to delay the second phase of questioning about potential jurors' views on the death penalty, leaving the judge "visibly frustrated," WPLG reports.

Defense attorney Melisa McNeill said Secor was hired mainly to assist in jury selection and is the only defense lawyer apart from herself who has death-penalty trial experience. But Broward County Judge Elizabeth Scherer was clearly tired of waiting. She "accused the defense of rendering themselves 'ineffective' to their client on purpose" and ordered the second phase of questioning to proceed, per WPLG. At that point, McNeill announced the defense would withdraw from the case, claiming she risked her client's liberty and her own, as well as her law license, in moving forward. Scherer "respectfully" denied the motion after stating the Parkland gunman "has the right to have a competent lawyer," not "five lawyers."

McNeill then filed a motion asking Scherer to withdraw from the case. As a legal analyst tells WPLG, "a showing of prejudice against the party's attorney can serve as a reasonable ground for disqualification." The judge again denied the motion. The court continued on Monday with the first phase of questioning of potential jurors about whether any hardships would prevent them from hearing five months of testimony, but it began phase two of questioning on Tuesday, with Secor in attendance, as WPLG's Christina Vazquez reports. Testimony in the case is scheduled to begin June 27, per WPTV. (One potential juror appeared to mouth expletives at the school shooter.)

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