Parkland school reopened so jury can view untouched scene before ruling on Nikolas Cruz’s death trial

The 23-year-old Nikolas Cruz plead guilty to the murder of 17 staff and students in October

<p>Nikolas Cruz, 23, plead guilty to the murder of 17 staff and students in October 2021. </p>

Nikolas Cruz, 23, plead guilty to the murder of 17 staff and students in October 2021.

The judge presiding over the deadliest mass shooting ever to go to trial ruled that the jury will be granted permission to tour the blood-stained school building in Parkland, Florida where shooter Nikolas Cruz murdered 17 people, the Associated Press reported.

The defence for 23-year-old Mr Cruz tried to argue that a tour of the facilities was unnecessary, given the fact that their client had plead guilty and, as they argued, there was sufficient video and photographic evidence from the massacre that occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on 14 February 2018.

Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer, however, saw it another way.

“The Court finds that a jury view of the crime scene remains useful and proper, even in light of the current posture of the case,” Ms Scherer wrote in a ruling posted Monday, according to the Associated Press.

“The purpose of a jury view is to assist the jury in analyzing and applying the evidence presented at trial.”

Jury selection for what is expected to be a closely watched trial, given the panel will determine whether or not Mr Cruz receives a death sentence or life without parole, began Monday and is expected to take several weeks as the judge, prosecutors and Mr Cruz’s public defenders screen for the final 12 jurors, plus eight alternates.

Prosecutors, who argued in favour of reopening the untouched scene where Mr Cruz methodically killed his peers and school staff, believe touring the facilities would better help understand the case. Though this isn’t always granted by judges, both the defence and the prosecutor are permitted to request it.

Judge Elizabeth Scherer is shown during jury pre-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, April 4, 2022.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has been fenced off and sealed from the public since the Valentine’s Day massacre, with reports saying that details such as the blood on the ground where people were shot and the holes in the wall still remain untouched.

Since the Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in the US in 1976, Florida has put to death 99 people. But death penalty trials, understandably, can take time.

In Florida, much like the rest of the country, they can take up to two years to even start, and with Mr Cruz’s trial having already been delayed due to the ongoing pandemic and legal wrangling, the time it will take from start to ruling could be even more prolonged.

For Mr Cruz, a former student at Majory Stoneman Douglas, to receive the death penalty, the jurors must all unanimously agree.

If any one of the 12 jurors does not agree that factors such as the number of people killed, the premeditation or the cruelty unleashed on the 17 people murdered that day in February 2018 amount to a death sentence, then Mr Cruz will receive a life sentence without parole.

The Associated Press contributed reporting.

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