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Witnesses, Trauma Discussed During First Hearing Of The Year For Confessed Parkland Shooter

Judge Elizabeth Scherer speaks to Jay Cohen, private attorney for a juvenile eyewitness during a hearing in the case of Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale on Wednesday.
(Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel via AP, Pool)
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

The confessed Parkland school shooter was back in a Broward County courtroom Wednesday morning, for the first hearing of the new year in the case of The State of Florida vs. Nikolas Cruz. 

Cruz faces 17 charges of first degree  murder and 17 charges of attempted first degree murder for the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School two years ago on February 14.

Attorneys argued in front of Judge Elizabeth Scherer about whether two witnesses who are still suffering emotionally after the tragedy should have to be deposed or questioned about what they experienced. Their answers could help attorneys prepare arguments ahead of Cruz's trial. 


Ahead of the meeting in court, the attorneys worked out that one of the witnesses, a teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, will agree to give a deposition, but with accommodations that can make her feel more comfortable.

Attorney Jay Cohen is representing the teacher, as well as a 17-year-old student at Stoneman Douglas. 

Cohen argued that the student cannot, at this point, give a deposition. He said her mental health "continues to suffer" after what she witnessed on campus, nearly two years ago. In some cases, asking trauma survivors to detail the violence they experienced can lead to re-traumatization.

Read More: UPDATED: Where To Find Mental Health, Trauma Support In South Florida After A Mass Shooting

The defense and state believe the student is an important person to the trial.

"She has information, she's an A witness," Broward State Attorney Mike Satz said. 

He said he does not have a problem delaying her questioning if, at some point in the near future, she becomes ready to talk about what she saw and heard on the day of the shooting.  

Scherer told the attorneys she prefers they work out things like this on their own in the future.

"Rather than me order a deadline or protective order against a young woman who has already been through more than I can imagine... I think it's better if I defer," Scherer said.  "I don't think anyone here wants to do her any harm."

Scherer also said if the attorneys can't move forward with questioning her, they will not be able to use her tesimony later at trial. 

"The bottom line is: if she can't or won't, or a little bit of both... then she can't be called at trial," Scherer said. "This case has to keep going."

The trial is expected to begin sometime this summer. The next hearing is set for March 23.

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Caitie Switalski is a rising senior at the University of Florida. She's worked for WFSU-FM in Tallahassee as an intern and reporter. When she's in Gainesville for school, Caitie is an anchor and producer for local Morning Edition content at WUFT-FM, as well as a digital editor for the station's website. Her favorite stories are politically driven, about how politicians, laws and policies effect local communities. Once she graduates with a dual degree in Journalism and English,Caitiehopes to make a career continuing to report and produce for NPR stations in the sunshine state. When she's not following what's happening with changing laws, you can catchCaitielounging in local coffee shops, at the beach, or watching Love Actually for the hundredth time.