More Issues for the Search of a Jury in the Parkland Massacre

April 18, 2022 Criminal Defense

Yet another round of jurors have been released in the attempt to find a 12-seat jury in the upcoming Parkland High School shooting case. Only two weeks into the jury selection process, and Broward County Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer has now removed an entire 60-member panel of potential jurors.

This is not the first set of people who have been removed from attending the jury stand in this case. Just last week, Scherer released eleven people who claimed to have issues with following the laws of a juror. Criticism fell over Scherer, with both the prosecution and defense claiming there were procedural issues with the way Scherer handled the situation. You can read more about the procedural issues and the potential mistrial in the Parkland case in our blog here.

So what is the newest issue in the case’s jury selection process? On Monday, April 11th, Judge Scherer claimed that the panel of potential jurors was “tainted” after several people broke down with emotional reactions to hearing they may be placed on the Parkland case. Since the beginning of the selection process, there have been multiple emotional outbursts.

This is not surprising, as Nikolas Cruz has now plead guilty to the murder of 17 students in the February 2018 school massacre. One woman broke down in tears, and when Judge Scherer asked if she was alright the woman responded that her own 15-year-old son had been a victim of gun violence. The woman was escorted out of the courtroom shortly after.

This led to more and more potential jurors becoming emotional, realizing the difficulty serving on this case’s stand would entail. There were upwards of eight people who had to leave the courtroom at this point.

After seeing everyone’s reactions, Judge Scherer said, “The ladies and gentlemen that have been taken out so far are people that are just so upset that they can’t sit here without getting emotional and we don’t want to cause trauma for anyone. If you absolutely cannot sit here without breaking down or getting emotional you can raise your hand.”

Judge Scherer was still clear to point out that one could not simply claim to know too much about the case as an excuse not to participate as a potential juror. “As long as you can sit here and listen to what I have to say which is pretty much [that] I am just going to ask people about their schedules,” Scherer said.

Shortly after Judge Scherer decided to dismiss everyone on the panel. This meant that 60 people in total were now sent home and released from the jury selection. This would be a first for an entire panel getting released from potential selection in this case.

Scherer has already announced that the proceedings would likely take several months. The potential jurors who make it past this second round will have to answer whether or not they can be fair and impartial to the evidence they are provided and in deciding on the sentence. The jurors will then have to face questions regarding the death penalty, which is one of the potential sentences Cruz faces.

The jury will hear the evidence of potential mitigating circumstances from the defense team, such as upbringing or signs of remorse. This will be used to help the jury decide whether Cruz will face life in prison or the death penalty.

Criminal Procedures under Florida Law

The state of Florida has jury instructions that are read to the jury at the end of the trial and provide directions for the jury to follow. Included in the instructions are how to evaluate evidence, proper behavior in the courtroom, and any potential legal issues that may arise. There are also instructions for specific crimes within the standard criminal instructions for a jury. To read more about jury instructions in a criminal case of defenses to jury instructions, find our appropriate blogs.

Florida Statute Section 921.141 defines the criminal procedures and corrections in a court case. The jury in a capital case must decide on the imposition of a sentence and whether it is life in prison or the death penalty. Life imprisonment in a capital case is without the possibility of parole. The death penalty sentence is decided by the jury after deciding if there are aggravating factors exist beyond a reasonable doubt.


David Weinstein, legal analyst and former prosecutor had already previously commented on Judge Scherer’s jury selection from the first week of proceedings. In reference to the newest release of potential jurors, Weinstein posted the following comment in a Twitter video:

“In the end, what is going to be important is how many people are going to be able to set aside whatever preconceived notions they have, both about the case and about the death penalty. One of the difficulties that is being faced here by both the prosecution and the defense, and the judge, are getting a large enough room from which to pick 12 jurors, plus potentially eight alternates in order to even get to the testimony in the penalty phase.”

In addition, NSU law professor Mark Dobson also weighed in on the topic of the potential jury:

“There will be extensive jury questioning about the prospective jurors about their views on the death penalty—are any of them adamantly opposed, could they, if they believe that the evidence presented at trial and at the penalty phase merits that—could they return, potentially, a death sentence. It would be one of the most difficult things a human being could ever be asked to decide in their life. Any juror who does this deserves this serves the thanks of everybody.”

Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida

The process of a criminal trial is no easy task. Finding a jury panel can be one obstacle, but if you are the defendant in the case it can be extremely stressful. It is important to ensure that you have a skilled Florida criminal defense defense attorney on your side who can help to navigate the ins and outs of the legal world. If you or a loved one have been accused of a crime, make it your top priority to seek out the help of a skilled attorney in your area. Don Pumphrey and his team at Pumphrey Law Firm have experience representing clients all across the state of Florida for various crimes. They know what it takes to provide your case with the best defense, and are prepared to stand in your corner to fight for your rights. Call (850) 681-7777 or leave an online message today and receive a free consultation regarding your case.

 Written by Karissa Key

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