When Nikolas Cruz, the man suspected in the Parkland shooting, cried in a court appearance on Wednesday, his lawyers gave him colored pencils and a drawing of Pikachu to calm his nerves. When prosecutors took them away, he became even more distressed.
Nikolas Cruz, 23, was called before a Fort Lauderdale court on charges that he assaulted a prison guard. He reportedly first became upset when some in the group of potential jurors for that case cried at the sight of the suspected shooter.
“They are doing [that] so the jury perceives that he is a child, that his mentality is somehow challenged,” prosecutor Maria Schneider told Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer.
Nikolas Cruz’s defense team countered that they merely wanted to calm their client, who is also awaiting trial for the murder of 17 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in February 2018.
Cruz had reportedly not had the chance to begin coloring when Judge Scherer sided with the prosecution. Citing courtroom safety, she ruled that Cruz was allowed only to have a prison-issued pen.
After court officers confiscated the drawing materials, Nikolas Cruz appeared to continue to weep silently.
Whether or not the colored pencils were a strategy to garner sympathy, the fact that the defense team had them at the ready seems to imply that they’ve been used in the past to calm Cruz when he is angry or distressed.
Judge Scherer determined that the pool of 288 potential jurors screened this week was sufficient to select the six that will decide the case of his alleged jailhouse assault. About half of those screened told the court they would not be able to fairly judge Cruz, because of his association with the Parkland school shooting.
Several jurors told Judge Scherer that they could not be unbiased toward Cruz, as they had personal connections to the victims of the shooting. Jurors were reportedly not told who the defendant would be before entering the courtroom, but the notoriety of his charges made him immediately recognizable to many.
Officials accused Cruz of attacking a prison security officer in November 2018. The incident was purportedly caught on surveillance footage, and a soundless video allegedly shows Nikolas Cruz beating the corrections officer who had instructed him to “stop dragging his feet.” The suspected Parkland shooter will be back in court Thursday for a pretrial hearing.
The suspected Parkland shooter will face a possible 15-year sentence if found guilty of attacking the officer, though if prosecutors in his murder trial have their way, it will be a moot point.
State attorneys are pushing for the death penalty in the trial to determine Cruz’s guilt for the Parkland shooting.
The defense team for Nikolas Cruz has previously offered a guilty plea to 17 counts of murder in exchange for a life sentence, but prosecutors have denied this bargain. In total, Cruz has been charged with 34 counts of premeditated and attempted murder in the school shooting to which he has previously confessed.
No date has yet been set for the murder trial. In a pre-trial ruling last month, Judge Scherer told prosecutors they would not be able to describe Cruz using derogatory terms such as “animal” or “that thing.”
Cruz’s defense also sought to prevent prosecutors from using language like “school shooter,” “killer,” and “murderer,” but Judge Scherer did not agree, calling those terms “normal words” to describe “particular facts” of the case.