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Parkland school gunman Nikolas Cruz wants the judge removed after he blasted his defense attorneys in court last week.
Attorney Melisa McNeill abruptly announced on Wednesday that the defense team planned to rest, prompting Broward County Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer to criticize him for not informing the court in advance so that the state could have witnesses ready for their rebuttal.
In the motion filed Saturday morning, McNeil faulted Scherer for criticizing his professionalism and then telling jurors it was the defense’s fault that the trial would remain dark for two weeks to give prosecutors time to prepare.
“The defense had absolutely no legal obligation to notify the state or the court in advance of its intention to rest,” McNeil wrote.
JUDGE WAITING FOR DEFENSE ATTORNEYS AFTER THEY DROP THEIR CASE
The heated exchange, she said, revealed that the court’s “animosity” towards her is “long-standing and has infected this entire trial”. McNeil cited many previous examples where she said the judge inappropriately reprimanded defense attorneys.
In an affidavit, Cruz wrote that the judge’s reprimands “cause me to reasonably fear that the Court is biased against me and my attorneys and that I will not receive a fair and impartial trial.”
FILMING AT PARKLAND SCHOOL: NIKOLAS CRUZ’S DRAWINGS OF FLORIDA PRISON REVEAL A DISTURBED MIND
The defense asked for a mistrial and the judge to recuse herself from the case.
In a response to the motion, Assistant State’s Attorney Carolyn McCann argued that even if the judge made “critical or hostile” comments, these were not grounds for a mistrial.
On Wednesday, Scherer reprimanded McNeill after learning the defense did not plan to call any further witnesses.
“We don’t play chess,” she fumed. “It’s the most unwarranted and unprofessional way to judge a case. You all knew that and even though you didn’t make up your mind until this morning to have 22 people plus all the staff and every attorney show up in court, wait cause it’s kind of a game – now I have to send them home.”
When McNeill attempted to respond, Scherer directed his anger at her. “You insulted me throughout the trial, so blatantly,” the judge told McNeill. “Take off your headphones. Argue with me. Storm out. Intentionally come late if you don’t like my decisions, so, quite frankly, this is long overdue.”
The judge has yet to rule on the motion to quash.
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Two months into Cruz’s trial for killing 17 people, he opened fire on Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14, 2018, in one of the deadliest mass shootings in US history. United.
He has already pleaded guilty, and the trial will only determine whether he is sentenced to death or life without the possibility of parole.