FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Judges have likely heard jurors give reasons not to sit on a panel, especially in a high-profile case. But a South Florida judge was probably shaking his head after hearing this one.
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On Monday, a prospective juror told Broward County Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer that his commitments to his “sugar daddy” barred him from serving on the committee that will decide whether Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz , will be sentenced to life in prison without parole or be put to death, the Sun-Sentinel reported. For the death penalty, the jury must be unanimous in their decision, WTVT-TV reported.
This juror was excused, by the way.
The task of seating 12 jurors and eight alternates for the sentencing trial of Cruz, now 23, who killed 17 students and staff and injured 17 others at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14, 2018, could take several weeks. Cruz pleaded guilty to 17 counts of first-degree murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in October 2021, according to the Miami Herald.
“It will be a long and arduous process. It will be difficult to find jurors with no opinion,” Gail Levine, retired senior Miami-Dade County prosecutor, who is not involved in the case, told the newspaper. “Remember, it’s normal to know about the case. But a juror cannot sit if they have already formed an opinion on sentencing before the case is presented.
“Please understand that while you may know the case, you will not be excused for that reason alone,” Scherer told the first group of 60 potential jurors on Monday, according to the Sun-Sentinel.
Several members of the panel of jurors for the sanction phase were fired for health issues, lack of English language proficiency or because they had already paid vacation time, the Associated Press reported.
It was then that a woman told the judge that multiple birthdays in July made it difficult to serve the case, which could stretch from June to September.
“What are those dates,” Scherer asked in a video of the proceedings, according to WTVT.
“July 7th, July 4th and July 18th,” the woman said. “And again, I need to understand something. I have my sugar daddy who I see every day.
“I’m sorry?” Scherer asked.
“My sugar daddy,” the woman said again.
Scherer told the prospective juror she was “not exactly sure” what she was talking about.
“I’m married and have my sugar daddy,” the woman said for the third time. “I see it every day.”
“OK. Alright,” Scherer said, according to the video. “Ma’am, we’ll get back to you, okay? Thank you.”
The woman was later fired, along with more than 120 of the first 160 to appear before Scherer, WTVT reported.
The first two months of the trial are expected to be spent finding jurors, the Sun-Sentinel reported. About 1,000 potential jurors were called for the first round of selection, according to the newspaper.
“I see double. I saw a lot of people,” Scherer said at the end of Monday’s session, according to the AP.
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