Florida school shooter’s AR-15 rifle shown to his jurors

Jul 25, 2022, 11:49 AM | Updated: Jul 26, 2022, 2:56 am
Assistant State Attorney Mike Satz, checks into evidence the weapon used in the MSD shooting during...

Assistant State Attorney Mike Satz, checks into evidence the weapon used in the MSD shooting during the penalty phase of shooter Nikolas Cruz at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale on Monday, July 25, 2022. Cruz previously plead guilty to all 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the 2018 shootings. (Carline Jean/ Florida Sun Sentinel via AP, Pool)

(Carline Jean/ Florida Sun Sentinel via AP, Pool)

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Jurors in the penalty trial of Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz got their first view Monday of the AR-15-style rifle he used to murder 17 students and staff members four years ago at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, staring intently as it was carried to the front of the courtroom.

Lead prosecutor Mike Satz removed the black semi-automatic Smith & Wesson from a cardboard box and carried it to Broward sheriff’s Sgt. Gloria Crespo, who said it was found in a third-floor stairwell after the Feb. 14, 2018, massacre. Video seen by jurors previously showed Cruz placed it on the landing along with his backpack and the black shooter’s vest he had been wearing before fleeing the school.

The defense objected to the weapon’s introduction, saying without explanation that it lacked relevance and was unfairly prejudicial. The defense also objected to Satz placing the gun on the floor behind him in easy view of the jurors instead of placing it on an evidence table away from them. Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer rejected the objections.

David S. Weinstein, a Miami criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor who is not involved in the case, said the defense believes that since Cruz pleaded guilty, the gun and other evidence such as surveillance video and crime scene photos are no longer relevant and serve to inflame the jurors’ emotions.

Prosecutors have successfully argued that such evidence is necessary to prove the murders included at least one aggravating factor such as being committed in a cruel or heinous manner or during a crime that endangered the lives of many people.

Crespo also testified that Cruz, then 19, had five gun magazines remaining in the vest, containing 160 total bullets. He had fired more than 100 shots as he stalked the three-story building for seven minutes, firing down hallways and into classrooms. The former Stoneman Douglas student, who had been expelled a year earlier, wounded 17 in addition to the 14 students and three staff members.

The jurors also were shown photos Crespo took of the bodies of five students and a teacher who died on the third-floor, all shot at close range, and photos from three autopsies. Those were not shown to the gallery, where several parents and family members sat, but were later shown to reporters in private. As most mass shooters die during their attacks and aren’t brought to trial, it is rare that such photos are seen outside of law enforcement.

The crime scene photos show two girls and one boy lying dead next to each other in the hallway, a Valentine’s Day stuffed animal next to one girl’s head. One boy lying nearby was shot 12 times, including four times in the head. His autopsy photos showed gaping wounds to his skull and shoulder — one female juror wiped away tears as those were shown.

The parents of one boy and the wife of a staff member wept as the doctors discussed their family member’s autopsy. Members of other families grasped their hands and rubbed their shoulders, then hugged them when the session ended.

This showing came three days after jurors saw their first graphic crime scene and autopsy photos. The defense has also objected to the photographs being shown, saying they are unneeded and only meant to arouse the jurors’ anger.

Earlier Monday, the seven-man and five-woman jury and their 10 alternates heard from Uber driver Laura Zecchini, whom Cruz hired to drive him to the school. She said he appeared nervous during the 13-minute ride and was carrying a large black soft-sided carrying case. Cruz told Zecchini he was going to his music lesson.

Cruz pleaded guilty in October to 17 counts of first-degree murder, so the jury will only decide if he is sentenced to death or life without parole.

His is the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history to reach trial. Nine U.S. gunmen besides Cruz who killed at least 17 people died during or immediately after their shootings, either by suicide or police gunfire. The suspect in a 10th, the 2019 slaying of 23 people at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, is awaiting trial.

When jurors eventually get the case, probably in October or November, they will vote 17 times, once for each of the victims, on whether to recommend capital punishment.

For each death sentence, the jury must be unanimous or the sentence for that victim is life. The jurors are told that to vote for death, the prosecution’s aggravating circumstances for that victim must, in their judgment, “outweigh” the defense’s mitigators. A juror can also vote for life out of mercy for Cruz, now 23. During jury selection, the panelists said under oath that they are capable of voting for either sentence.

___

Associated Press writer Freida Frisaro in Fort Lauderdale contributed to this report.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

1st civil trial over Portland cops’ use of force begins

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The first civil suit alleging Portland police used excessive violence against a 2020 racial justice demonstrator opened Tuesday before a jury in Multnomah County Circuit Court. Civil rights attorneys are paying close attention because the outcome could answer questions about the potential liability the city faces over similar cases, Oregon Public […]
21 hours ago
FILE - An Optus phone sign hangs above its store in Sydney, Australia, Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021. Aust...
Associated Press

Australia flags tough new data protection laws this year

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia could have tough new data protection laws in place this year in an urgent response to a cyberattack on a telecommunications company that stole the personal data of 9.8 million customers, the attorney-general said on Thursday. Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said the government would make “urgent reforms” to the Privacy Act […]
21 hours ago
Registrar Kristen Schmidt takes stock of the painting "Seated Man" by Elaine de Kooning, wife of Wi...
Associated Press

Arizona museum exhibit marks end to de Kooning painting saga

Nobody could have predicted a Willem de Kooning painting stolen in 1985would find its way back to an Arizona museum.
21 hours ago
FILE - In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, left, shak...
Associated Press

Friend or foe? Japan-China ties complicated after 50 years

TOKYO (AP) — Friend or foe? Or both? On the streets of Tokyo and Beijing, the ties between Japan and China remain complicated and often contradictory, 50 years after the two Asian countries normalized relations as part of the process that brought Communist China into the international fold. Chinese official media and textbooks memorialize the […]
21 hours ago
People in raincoats walk along International Drive in Orlando, Fla., Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022, as ...
Associated Press

Ian swamps southwest Florida, trapping people in homes

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Hurricane Ian, one of the most powerful storms ever recorded in the U.S., swamped southwest Florida on Wednesday, turning streets into rivers, knocking out power to 1.8 million people and threatening catastrophic damage further inland. A coastal sheriff’s office reported that it was getting many calls from people trapped in […]
21 hours ago
FILE - Coolio performs during the "I Love The 90's" tour on Aug. 7, 2022, at RiverEdge Park in Auro...
Associated Press

‘Gangsta’s Paradise’ rapper Coolio dies at age 59

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Coolio, the rapper who was among hip-hop’s biggest names of the 1990s with hits including “Gangsta’s Paradise” and “Fantastic Voyage,” died Wednesday at age 59, his manager said. Coolio died at the Los Angeles home of a friend, longtime manager Jarez Posey told The Associated Press. The cause was not immediately […]
21 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Here are 4 signs the HVAC unit needs to be replaced

Pool renovations and kitchen upgrades may seem enticing, but at the forefront of these investments arguably should be what residents use the most. In a state where summertime is sweltering, access to a functioning HVAC unit can be critical.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Ways to prevent clogged drains and what to do if you’re too late

While there are a variety of ways to prevent clogged drains, it's equally as important to know what to do when you're already too late.
...
Sanderson Ford

Don’t let rising fuel prices stop you from traveling Arizona this summer

There's no better time to get out on the open road and see what the beautiful state of Arizona has to offer. But if the cost of gas is putting a cloud over your summer vacation plans, let Sanderson Ford help with their wide-range selection of electric vehicles.
Florida school shooter’s AR-15 rifle shown to his jurors