School shoot­ing’s civil, crim­i­nal cases inch along

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution - - MORE OF TODAY’S TOP NEWS - By Curt An­der­son and Terry Spencer

The Mar­jory Stone­man Dou­glas High School mas­sacre re­sulted in crim­i­nal and civil court cases and the cre­ation of a state in­ves­tiga­tive panel ex­am­in­ing the shoot­ing’s causes.

A look at where those stand:

Crim­i­nal case

The mur­der case against 20-year-old Niko­las Cruz is mov­ing slowly and could take years. De­fense lawyers are grad­u­ally in­ter­view­ing dozens of prose­cu­tion wit­nesses, and there have been sev­eral le­gal skir­mishes over re­lease of Cruz’s med­i­cal and school records and at­tempts to ob­tain ev­i­dence. No trial date has been set, even as pros­e­cu­tors have pushed to start this year.

Cruz’s lawyers have re­peat­edly said he will plead guilty to 17 counts of mur­der and 17 counts of at­tempted mur­der in re­turn for a life prison sen­tence, but Broward County pros­e­cu­tors want his guilt and ul­ti­mate fate de­cided by a lo­cal jury. They are seek­ing the death penalty.

Civil law­suits

The Park­land shoot­ings spawned nu­mer­ous law­suits, in­clud­ing a neg­li­gence case brought by a vic­tim’s fam­ily against sher­iff ’s Deputy Scot Peter­son for fail­ing to con­front the gun­man. More than 100 no­tices of in­tent to sue have been filed against the Broward County school sys­tem, again for neg­li­gence and sim­i­lar al­le­ga­tions that of­fi­cials failed to pro­tect stu­dents and staff. Shoot­ing sur­vivors have sued in fed­eral court claim­ing their civil rights were vi­o­lated.

And sur­vivors and vic­tims’ fam­i­lies alike have sued Cruz, the fam­ily he was liv­ing with at the time of the shoot­ing, three men­tal health agen­cies who eval­u­ated Cruz and the maker of the AR-15 ri­fle used by the shooter. More law­suits are likely.

Mar­jory Stone­man Dou­glas pub­lic safety com­mis­sion

The 15-mem­ber com­mis­sion is­sued a 458-page re­port in Jan­uary af­ter meet­ing pe­ri­od­i­cally for nine months to in­ves­ti­gate the mas­sacre’s causes and ex­am­ine how fu­ture school shoot­ings can be pre­vented. Its most con­tro­ver­sial rec­om­men­da­tion: Florida teach­ers who vol­un­teer, pass back­ground checks and un­dergo ex­ten­sive train­ing should be al­lowed to carry con­cealed hand­guns. The mem­bers ar­gue that sec­onds count, and wait­ing for po­lice to ar­rive al­lows shoot­ers time to kill more stu­dents. Op­po­nents in­clude the Florida teach­ers union and the state PTA. They say teach­ers should not also be se­cu­rity guards, and putting more guns on cam­puses will make schools more dan­ger­ous, not less. The com­mis­sion found nu­mer­ous fail­ures in the school sys­tem, law en­force­ment and at Stone­man Dou­glas. Among them: fail­ure of school of­fi­cials statewide to ex­am­ine and fix cam­pus se­cu­rity short­falls; poor train­ing for Broward County sher­iff ’s deputies in con­fronting mass shoot­ers; and fail­ures by Stone­man Dou­glas se­cu­rity of­fi­cers that al­lowed the shooter to en­ter the cam­pus. The com­mis­sion is com­posed of law en­force­ment, ed­u­ca­tion and men­tal health pro­fes­sion­als and the fa­thers of two slain chil­dren. The panel will con­tinue pe­ri­odic meet­ings for the next four years.

Park­land shoot­ing sus­pect Niko­las Cruz

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