Fast Start to Jury Selection at Trial of Former Deputy Accused of Failing to Confront Parkland Shooter

3 months ago 67

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla.—Jury enactment successful the proceedings of a erstwhile sheriff’s lawman charged with failing to face the slayer of 14 students and 3 unit members astatine a Florida precocious schoolhouse 5 years agone got disconnected to a speedy commencement Wednesday, with the preliminary circular concluding successful conscionable 1 day.

Circuit Judge Martin Fein had tentatively scheduled 3 days of preliminary assemblage selection, seeking 50 candidates whose schedules and employment would let perchance 2 months of work astatine the proceedings of erstwhile Broward County Deputy Scot Peterson.

But by the extremity of Wednesday, the justice ended the process aft uncovering 55 finalists retired of 300 prospects interviewed.

Those 55 volition beryllium brought backmost Monday for questioning by prosecutors and Peterson’s lawyer astir their cognition of the 2018 shooting astatine Marjory Stoneman High School successful Parkland, and whether they tin beryllium just successful judging Peterson’s alleged refusal to face shooter Nikolas Cruz astatine the scene.

Six jurors and 4 alternates volition beryllium chosen. Florida is 1 of six states that let six-member juries for trials different than superior murder. The others are Arizona, Connecticut, Indiana, Massachusetts, and Utah. All different states usage 12-member juries successful felony trials.

If each goes according to plan, opening statements would beryllium fixed the mediate of adjacent week.

While Fein tried to dissuade further comments Wednesday, 2 prospective jurors demanded to talk to him extracurricular of the beingness of the others. One said helium already knew helium couldn’t beryllium just due to the fact that helium considers Peterson “a coward.” Another said his boss’s girl was 1 of the 17 wounded successful the shooting. Both were dismissed.

Peterson, 60, is charged with 7 counts of felony kid neglect involving 4 students killed and 3 wounded connected the apical level of a three-story schoolroom building. He becomes the archetypal U.S. instrumentality enforcement serviceman prosecuted for his alleged actions and inaction during a schoolhouse shooting. Texas authorities are inactive considering charges for the officers who failed past twelvemonth to face the gunman astatine an Uvalde simple schoolhouse who killed 19 children and 2 teachers.

Scot Peterson Former Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School School Resource Officer Scot Peterson stands during a proceeding astatine the Broward County Courthouse successful Fort Lauderdale, Fla., connected May 30, 2023. (Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP, Pool)

On Feb. 14, 2018, Peterson approached the gathering with his weapon drawn 73 seconds earlier Cruz reached the 3rd floor, but alternatively of entering, helium backed distant arsenic gunfire sounded. He has said helium thought the shots were coming from extracurricular the building, possibly from a sniper. His lawyer Mark Eiglarsh says helium volition telephone 22 witnesses who besides thought the shots came from outside.

Eiglarsh besides argues that nether Florida law, Peterson had nary ineligible work to participate the gathering and face Cruz.

Peterson is besides charged with 3 counts of misdemeanor culpable negligence for the adults changeable connected the 3rd floor, including a teacher and an big pupil who died. He besides faces a perjury complaint for allegedly lying to investigators. He could get astir a period successful situation if convicted connected the kid neglect counts and suffer his $104,000 yearly pension.

Prosecutors did not complaint Peterson successful transportation with the 11 killed and 13 wounded connected the archetypal level earlier helium arrived astatine the building. No 1 was changeable connected the 2nd floor.

Peterson retired soon aft the shooting and was fired retroactively.

Cruz pleaded blameworthy successful 2021 to the killings. In a punishment proceedings past year, his assemblage couldn’t unanimously hold connected whether helium deserved the decease penalty. The 24-year-old erstwhile Stoneman Douglas pupil was past sentenced to beingness successful prison.

Nikolas Cruz Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz sits astatine the defence array during a unfortunate interaction connection astatine his sentencing proceeding astatine the Broward County Courthouse successful Fort Lauderdale, Fla., connected Nov. 2, 2022. (Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel via AP, Pool)

In Uvalde, a study by lawmakers enactment astir 400 officers astatine Robb Elementary School soon aft the shooting began from an array of federal, state, and section agencies, galore of them heavy armed.

They waited much than an hr to face and termination the 18-year-old gunman. At slightest 5 officers were enactment nether probe aft the shooting and were either fired oregon resigned, though a afloat accounting is unclear.

The caput of the Texas Department of Public Safety, Col. Steve McCraw mostly blamed Uvalde’s schoolhouse constabulary chief, who was aboriginal fired by trustees.

By Terry Spencer