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Defense lawyers suddenly adjourn in Florida school shooting trial, criticized by judge

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Attorneys for Nicholas Cruz in the Florida school shooting suddenly and surprisingly filed a lawsuit on Wednesday after calling only a handful of expected witnesses. It was called off and led to a shouting match after the judge complained of lack of professionalism.

Cruz’s attorneys, who had told the judge and prosecutors they would call 80 witnesses, rested after calling only about 25 witnesses at the beginning of Wednesday’s trial. Alcohol consumption during pregnancy affected his brain development, and he may have killed 17 people at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School four years ago.

The sudden announcement by Lead Attorney Melissa McNeil led to a heated exchange between her and Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherrer, who, without warning her or the prosecution, called the decision “close the case.” “The least sought-after, unprofessional way to hear.”

Twelve jurors and ten alternates were not present but lined up to enter and exit the courtroom. The sudden announcement also meant that prosecutors weren’t ready to launch a countersuit.

Chief Prosecutor Mike Sutz raised his hand and said “no” with a nervous laugh when Scherer asked if he could begin.

“We are waiting for another 40 (defense) witnesses,” Mr Satz said.

Scherrer then accused Cruz’s attorneys of being inconsiderate of everyone involved, especially the jury, for wasting trips to court.

“Twenty-two people marching to court, waiting like a game. Never in my career have I experienced anything less professional,” Scherrer said aloud.

McNeill angrily countered, “You are insulting me in front of my clients,” Scherrer told her to stop.

“You’ve been insulting me all through the trial,” Scherrer barked at McNeill. Well, this has been long overdue. Now, please take a seat.”

Cruz, 23, pleaded guilty last October to the murder of 14 Stoneman Douglas students and three employees on February 14, 2018. For death sentences, the jury must be unanimous.

After his lawyer rested, Cruz told Scherrer he agreed with the decision.

“I think we are good,” he said.

When the jurors were informed of the decision, some stared at the defense table and appeared stunned.

Cruise’s attorney explains how his late-born mother’s alcohol abuse during pregnancy led Cruise to a lifelong erratic, bizarre, and often violent behavior that culminated in the shooting. They also tried to show that his adoptive mother, Linda Cruz, was overwhelmed after her husband died when Cruz was five years old.

They called witnesses who knew his birth mother, Brenda Woodard, a Fort Lauderdale prostitute. They testified that she drank fortified wine and malt liquor and abused cocaine during her pregnancy.

They called Cruz’s psychiatrist, psychologist, kindergarten, elementary, and middle school teachers. He testified that he was a child.

The defense called Dr. Kenneth Jones, one of the nation’s leading fetal alcohol experts, and told them that in their 50 years of research, they had never seen a birth mother with a drinking record as good as Woodard’s. He closed the lawsuit by saying no. He believes Mr. Cruz’s doctors did not properly diagnose him with fetal alcohol, his spectrum disorder.

However, Cruz’s attorney was expected to call his brother Zachary.

Two lawyers following the trial are stunned by the defense’s decision.

“Wow. That’s shocking,” said Miami attorney and former prosecutor David Weinstein. While the defense may have been concerned that the prosecution’s cross-examination of the witnesses was undermining their case, “I was surprised that there was no testimony about his high school years or beyond.” I have,” he said.

Robert Jarvis, a law professor at Nova Southeastern University near Fort Lauderdale, said the decision was difficult to understand.

“Perhaps the defense felt that it had made its case. Perhaps the defense felt that it was losing the jury, and more witnesses would only alienate the jury. They may have felt that calling .

Still, he said Scherrer wasn’t asked to dress McNeil down.

“It was the defender’s right to rest when he judged the proper time had been reached. Indeed, I have heard of judges effectively requiring that the parties call all of the proposed witnesses.” No,” Jarvis said.

The defense is trying to overcome a prosecution’s case focused on the murder of Cruz, who stalked a three-story classroom building for seven minutes with an AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle. Satz played a video of his shooting security and showed the rifle Cruz used. Teachers and students testified about seeing others die.

Satz showed graphic autopsies and crime scene photos, then took the jurors to a fenced-in building. His parents and spouse have issued tearful and angry statements about their loss.

Prosecutors said it would take more than a week to prepare a counter-argument. The trial is now tentatively scheduled to resume on Sept. 27 and end the week of Oct. 10.