Parkland shooting trial: Jurors to visit Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School today

Parkland shooting trial: Jurors to visit Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School today

The building on the school’s campus has remained sealed since the February 2018 shooting to preserve it for the trial. A new building that opened in 2020 has taken on the role of the structure, which officials have said will be torn down.

The visit is meant to help jurors analyze the evidence presented in the trial so far, Judge Elizabeth Scherer explained.

The judge instructed jurors Wednesday to “avoid touching, manipulating or moving anything.” She also told them to explore the scene on their own and at their own pace, moving as a group from floor to floor.

“Nothing will be explained or pointed out to you,” the judge’s instructions said. Juors have also been told to avoid speaking to anyone until the viewing is complete.

Jurors will not be allowed to have a smart phone, smart watch or any type of camera, during the jury view. In court, attorneys encourage the judge to ask jurors to wear closed-toe shoes because they could encounter glass on the floor.

The current phase of the trial is to determine gunman Nikolas Cruz’s sentence: Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty, while Cruz’s defense attorneys are asking the jury for a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. To recommend a death sentence, jurors must be unanimous. If they do so, the judge could choose to follow the recommendation or sentence Cruz to life instead.

Cruz is not expected to be at the crime scene.

Following the visit, some impact statements are expected in court, the judge said.

Wednesday was the third day of impact victim testimony in the trial of Cruz, who pleaded guilty to 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder for the shooting.

Much of the martyrdom in the Broward County court — particularly from the parents of the 14 students killed — has focused on all the things the victims and their families will never get to do and the irreparable damage to their everyday lives.

“Our family is broken. There is this constant emptiness,” said Max Schachter, the father of 14-year-old Alex, who loved chocolate chip cookies, playing the trombone and video games.

“I feel I can’t truly be happy if I smile,” Schachter said Wednesday. “I know that behind that smile is the sharp realization that part of me will always be sad and miserable because Alex isn’t here.”

Parkland school shooter was 'cold, calculative, manipulative and deadly,'  prosecutors say in death penalty trial

The loss of her daughter Meadow Pollack, 18, has “destroyed” Shara Kaplan’s life, she told the jury Tuesday, “and my ability of ever living a productive existence.” To articulate how her daughter’s death impacted her, she said, she would have to rip out her heart and show them how it had shattered into a million pieces.

And the Hoyer family will never be the same. “We were a family unit of five always trying to fit into a world set up for even numbers,” said Tom Hoyer, whose 15-year-old son Luke — the youngest of three — was killed. “Two-, four-, six-seat tables in a restaurant. Two-, four-, six-ticket packages to events. Things like that.”

But the Hoyers are no longer a family of five, and “never again will the world feel right, now that we’re a family of four,” Hoyer said.

School district will pay more than $26 million to Parkland shooting victims and families

“When Luke died something went missing in me,” he said. “And I’ll never, never get over that feeling.”

To make their encing decision, jurors will hear prosecutors and defense attorneys argue aggravating factors and mitigating circumstances — reasons Cruz should or should not be executed.

The victim impact statements add another layer, giving the families and friends of the victims own day in court, though the judge told the jury the statements are not meant to be weighed as aggravating factors.

CNN’s Sara Weisfeldt and Leyla Santiago contributed to this report.


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