FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - The life or death trial of confessed Parkland school shooter is set to come to an end as closing arguments are set for Tuesday.
On Monday, Judge Elizabeth Scherer had a strong admonishment to both sides on the eve of closing arguments.
“Throughout this trial I have made rulings that have not been respected, and things that I have said that are not to be asked, have been asked anyway,” she said. “If I rule that certain things are not allowed to be mentioned or I have previously ruled are not allowed to be mentioned and they’re mentioned, and this is fair warning, I am going to reprimand either side if you do this in front of the jury.”
The warning came after the defense made a last ditch effort to get the death penalty off of the table after accusing a prosecutor of tampering with a witness. That call also involved another lawyer.
“He also testified that he felt like they didn’t want him to testify,” said defense attorney Melisa McNeill.
“We’re allowed to talk to witnesses,” said prosecutor Nicole Chiappone. “There’s no prosecutorial misconduct here. There’s nothing improper that the defense or the state did.”
The judge would deny the defense’s motion, so jurors will still have to decide between life in prison or the death penalty.
Soon after those closing arguments are given, deliberations by the jury will begin.
“They need to understand that the consideration for the first aggravator is for each and every act that Mr. Cruz did,” said Scherer.
Scherer went over the final instructions for the jury, and so the sentencing trial for the Parkland gunman, which began in April, is now winding down.
Prosecutors spent weeks showing jurors why they believe Cruz should die for the murders by bringing to the courtroom the gun he used, the tactical vest he wore and the high capacity magazines he carried with him when he murdered 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School back in 2018.
Jurors also heard from Cruz himself in a video recording of an interview by a psychologist where the gunman admitted he chose Valentine’s Day to forever ruin the occasion.
Defense attorneys have argued Cruz was stunted at birth by a drug-using, alcohol-drinking mother.
But prosecutors said he has borderline personality disorder.
“And that’s what it’s all about, they care about themselves, but they don’t care about the rights of other people,” said Dr. Robert Denney, a psychologist.
Cruz remains obsessed with violence and murder as he continued to sketch it out, even behind bars.
Prosecutors also said fetal alcohol syndrome did not cause the tragedy, Cruz did.
“I wish every single day that this was a nightmare that I could just wake up from,” said Max Schachter, who lost his son Alex Schachter in the shooting.
Tuesday morning each side will be given two and a half hours to present their closing arguments.
Deliberations by the jury will begin Wednesday morning, and they will be sequestered during this phase of the trial.
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