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What appeared to be a threat from a juror led officers to cordon off and guard Parkland school shooter Nicholas Cruz, fearing that the incident could turn violent.
A group of 70 potential jurors for Cruz’s trial were presenting in Broward County, Florida, the courtroom after a lunch break on Tuesday when Cruz’s lawyers reported the actions of a juror to the bailiffs. According to the Associated Press, the man was swearing profanity at Cruz, which prompted bailiffs to fire him.
The juror shook his head, “That’s awful.” Circuit Court Judge Elizabeth Shearer said the uproar then led to other jurors getting “excited”. Driving out of the courtroom, the juror looked back at Cruz, causing deputies to grab the defendant and corner him.
“One is inciting and then there are a lot of followers,” Broward Police Chief Capt. Osvaldo Tianga, who heads court security, told The Associated Press.
Meanwhile, Cruz’s attorney, Melissa McNeill, said she “appreciates[s] That’s business,” she wondered if it was necessary for MPs to hold her client instead of just standing in front of him.
After the chaos subsided, Judge Shearer met with attorneys on both sides before deciding to exclude the full group of 70 people. The judge said the deputies followed them out of the building to make sure they didn’t say anything to influence other potential jurors still waiting their turn.
Shearer said some of the dismissed jurors were “squabbling” toward the officers as they were being taken out.
Cruz pleaded guilty in October to the 2018 murders of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. A jury is now being chosen for a trial that will determine whether Cruz has been sentenced to death or life in prison without parole.
Jury selection began on April 4 and has seen its share of controversies. Early on, a juror explained to the judge that she wasn’t sure if the trial – which was expected to run from June to September – fit into her planned schedule, as she had family birthdays coming up, she said, “See every day.”
“I’m not quite sure what you’re talking about,” Scherer said, prompting the woman to explain, “I’m married and have sugar parents” that she sees “every day.”
She was eventually separated.
On Monday, Shearer dismissed 250 potential jurors and appealed jury selection due to a possible error on her part.
From hundreds of potential jurors, 12 members of the panel will be selected, as well as eight alternate members.
Fox News’ Michael Ruiz, Matthew Cena, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.