New York Daily News
Parkland jurors tour school massacre site
The jurors deciding whether the gunman who shot up Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day 2018 lives or dies toured the grisly crime scene Thursday morning, after which the prosecution rested its case.
The jury in the penalty phase of the trial of admitted mass murderer Nikolas Cruz toured what’s known as the freshman building of the Parkland, Fla., high school, roaming the same halls he did and peering into the same classrooms and stairwells where he aimed his gun.
The walls are still riddled with bullet holes, and the floors are splattered with bloodstains.
On Thursday afternoon, the last of the victim-impact statements were delivered. Anne Ramsey, whose 17-yearold daughter Helena Ramsey died in the shooting, told the court that the teen had been killed on her father’s birthday.
After the tour and the remaining statements, the prosecution rested its case in the trial that began on July 18 and lasted for 12 court days, with 91 witnesses testifying. Among the witnesses were 33 related to those killed, along with the 16 students and one teacher who were injured in the melee.
The jury is deciding whether Cruz, now 23, gets life without parole, or the death penalty, for gunning down 17 people
Cruz (photo) formally waived his right to accompany the morning tour.
Such a visit is rare, since crime scenes are usually returned to their normal use after an incident and can’t furnish accurate information.
But the three-story building has been sealed off since Cruz murdered 14 students and three staff members back on Valentine’s Day 2018. Under heavy security, the seven-man, five-woman jury plus 10 alternates were bused the 30 miles from the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale to the suburban school.
Police were also sealing off the area so protesters could not interrupt or endanger the jury panel’s safety.
Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer, prosecutors and Cruz’s attorneys accompanied them into the building, but no one was allowed to speak to the jurors, and the jurors could not exchange observations with one another, in accordance with Florida court rules, as they retraced his steps.
Only the children’s bodies and personal effects have been removed. The shot-out classroom windows have been left intact, and the Valentine’s Day flowers and balloons, now rotted and deflated, are still strewn about, along with other gifts.
Journalists sans cameras were escorted through the site. Only pens and paper were allowed.
The prosecutors’ goal is to help prove that the gunman’s actions were cold, calculated, heinous and cruel, and that they created a great risk of death to many and “interfered with a government function,” which are all aggravating factors under the state’s capital punishment law.
The defense has objected on the grounds that showing jurors such visceral evidence — which has already included video and photos of the massacre scene, and a courtroom viewing of the actual gun Cruz used — will inflame their emotions and skew their judgment. The judge has overruled those objections at every turn.
Cruz pleaded guilty in October to 17 counts of first-degree murder.