The jury’s choice of school shooting for Nicholas Cruz turned into a brawl in a Florida courtroom Tuesday when a potential juror “hurled insults” at Cruz, causing deputies to mobilize and protect the defendant.
A group of 70-member jury members were advancing into a Fort Lauderdale courtroom when Circuit Judge Elizabeth Shearer said the first man in attendance began making potential threats to Cruz, who He confessed to killing 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
When the bailiffs tried to turn the man away, he shook his head and said “that’s awful” as he walked past the courtroom reporters.
Other potential jurors then became “excited” and made inaudible comments, according to Schreier. Then the man who was speaking at Cruz began looking over his shoulder at the defendant, which led the deputies to fear he would run toward the 23-year-old and others to follow.
“The mayor’s office took note of all of this and decided they needed to protect Mr. Cruz,” said Shearer, among six armed lawmakers in the courtroom.
“One of them is instigating and then there are a lot of followers,” Captain Osvaldo Tianga, chief of courtroom security, explained.
Officials said the alleged instigator told lawmakers he wasn’t trying to cause trouble but had become emotional when he saw Cruz.
A 12-member panel of jurors and eight alternates is chosen to decide whether Cruz should be executed or sentenced to life in prison, and potential jurors did not know in advance that they would consider debating the fate of the notorious killer.
More than 1,800 potential jurors have passed through the courtroom since selection began earlier this month. In one earlier case, 60 people had to be expelled after many of them became emotional, which could affect others. About 12 others were quietly turned away as they started crying.
Shearer dismissed the entire panel after Tuesday’s incident, saying that many became “warriorists” and “got mouthful” when they were escorted out of the courtroom.
The jury is set to appeal on Wednesday.
with AP . wires