In the Florida trial of Parkland school shooter, the defense unexpectedly rests its case.
Nikolas Cruz, the shooter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, is led out the courthouse during the punishment phase of his trial on August 25 at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. On Wednesday, defense counsel for Cruz, who murdered 17 people in February 2018, unexpectedly rested their case, surprising prosecutors and earning a furious scolding from the trial judge. (South Florida Sun Sentinel via Reuters, Amy Beth Bennett)
LAUDERDALE, FLORIDA Defense counsel for the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter unexpectedly dismissed their evidence Wednesday, stunning prosecutors and earning a furious scolding from the court.
After pleading guilty to premeditated murder in October, Nikolas Cruz, 23, is facing the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of release. It was one of the bloodiest school shootings in history, claiming the lives of 14 pupils and three faculty members.
Cruz's attorneys had earlier stated that they intended to call 80 witnesses, but they only summoned around half of them before declaring their case closed in court.
Broward County Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer chastised the defense for acting without notice and wasting the court's time, describing it as the "most irresponsible, unethical manner to conduct the case."
The announcement was made without the presence of the jurors. Prosecutors said they were unprepared to offer their rebuttal case since hundreds of more defense witnesses were expected.
The trial will resume on September 27 with prosecutors launching their rebuttal, which is scheduled to take a week. Closing arguments are tentatively set for October 10th.
Cruz's attorneys have invited witnesses to testify about Cruz's lifetime struggles and mental health challenges, including brain damage caused by his mother's drinking and drug misuse while pregnant.
Prosecutors presented evidence that Cruz meticulously planned the assault ahead of time, and the victims' parents testified tearfully about their loss.