Parkland shooting trial: Lawyers argue over reference to ‘Holocaust room’ as Nikolas Cruz tries to avoid death penalty

The defence also ask that any guns or ammunition mass killer owned but were not used in the shooting to be exempted from evidence

Graig Graziosi
Thursday 04 November 2021 21:08

Related video: Confessed Parkland shooter pleads guilty

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Attorneys in the Parkland shooting sentencing trial of Nikolas Cruz spent part of their day arguing over whether or not it was appropriate to call a classroom the "Holocaust room."

Cruz has pleaded guilty to all counts brought against him. His lawyers are currently trying to prevent him from receiving the death penalty. On 14 February, 2018, the then-19-year-old killed 17 people and wounded 17 others in a shooting rampage at Stoneman Douglas High School.

According to CBS 10, the latest court battle came about on Wednesday as prosecutors were referring to classroom 1214, were two people were killed and four were injured during the 2018 shooting.

The room was where the school taught students about the Holocaust, leading Cruz's defence to ask for Judge Elizabeth Scherer to bar the prosecution and witnesses from referring to the classroom as the "Holocaust room."

The defence argued that the room would be better referred to by its classroom number or by the teacher's name on the grounds that the term "Holocaust room" is "inflammatory" and "wholly unnecessary."

“Our concern is that a jury would be more likely to juxtapose our client with Hitler, who killed six million Jewish people,” defence attorney David Wheeler said. “We don’t want that happening.”

The defence said it wanted to prevent the comparisons, in particular because the prosecution plans to enter items allegedly belonging to Cruz featuring "hand-etched swastikas." The defence has also noted that another item being entered into evidence is a photo of a student - allegedly Cruz - wearing a backpack with "a drawing of a swastika and the words 'f*** you n***** written on it."

The defence has argued that the photo is inadmissible because it is "irrelevant" to the shooting, and that there was "no evidence that any victim was targeted because of race or religion, and the state is not claiming otherwise."

Regarding the Holocaust room argument, the prosecutors defended their right to use the term, as it was not intended to be an inflammatory term but a reference point. The state pointed out that students often referred to the room as the "Holocaust Studies Room."

Ms Scherer ultimately agreed with the state, but allowed that during witness questioning both sides could clarify that the term "Holocaust room" is in reference to the subject matter taught.

Cruz's defence also moved to block evidence regarding any firearms or ammunition that the killer owned that were not used in the shooting.

Mr Wheeler argued that the inclusion would have no relevancy to the case "besides painting my client in a somewhat weird light."

The state opposed that argument, arguing that the weapons added to their case that the attack was planned and premeditated.

Ms Scherer made rulings on each item and said she will issue a related written order regarding their inclusion or exemption from the case.

Cruz's next court date is scheduled for 15 November.

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