Parkland shooting trial: prosecution rests after jury tours school building


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Prosecutors Thursday rested their case in the penalty trial of Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz after jurors made a morning visit to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School building where 17 people were slaughtered nearly four years ago.

The three-story structure has been sealed off since the Feb. 14, 2018, rampage when Cruz opened fire, killing 14 students and three staff members.

The panel of seven men and five women, along with 10 alternates were bused 30 miles from the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale to the school in Parkland.

Judge Elizabeth Scherer, Cruz’s attorneys, prosecutors, the jurors and law-enforcement escorts toured the preserved crime scene for about 90 minutes. Cruz, 23, waived his right to accompany them.

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A photo combination of Nikolas Cruz and the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School building, where 17 people were murdered  Feb. 14, 2018, in a mass shooting.
(Associated Press)

The group retraced Cruz’s steps as he went from floor to floor spraying hallways and classrooms with bullets. The walls and floors are still smeared with blood and windows blown out from gunfire. 

Dried out Valentine’s Day flowers and gifts were still strewn about classrooms.  The structure, known as the freshman building, casts a shadow over the school grounds — a constant reminder of the horrific tragedy that unfolded there.

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The Broward County school district plans to demolish the abandoned building once prosecutors give them the green light. 

Site visits in Florida jury trials are exceedingly rare.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz tucks his sweater in during penalty trial at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, April 26, 2022. 

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz tucks his sweater in during penalty trial at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, April 26, 2022. 
(Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP, Pool)

Cruz pleaded guilty to 17 counts of first-degree murder in October. The penalty trial will only determine whether he’s sentenced to death or life without parole. 

After jurors returned to the courthouse, they heard from Anne Ramsay, the mother of Helena Ramsay, 17, who was killed in her Holocaust history class. Helena died trying to protect her friend from the onslaught of bullets.

Her mom said she was a fast sprinter and played the clarinet.  Helena was murdered on her father’s birthday. 

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More parents and family members of slain victims offered impact statements before the prosecution rested. The judge excused the jury until Aug. 22 when the trial is scheduled to resume.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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