Attorneys representing the Parkland school shooter filed a petition on Friday asking to replace the judge overseeing his sentencing hearing. The motion comes after the judge and defense attorneys had an unusually heated exchange on Wednesday in which the judge accused the lawyers of being unprofessional.

The petition alleges that Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer’s conduct in Wednesday’s exchange exposed “long-standing” hostility towards defense counsel that “contaminated” the proceedings and would prevent their clients get a fair trial.

Defense attorneys had initially told the judge and prosecutors that they would call 80 witnesses to defend Nikolas Cruz, who pleaded guilty last year to the murders of 14 students and three staff members during the school day. The 2017 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.

But instead, they rested at the start of Wednesday’s trial after calling only about 25.

The sudden announcement by lead attorney Melisa McNeill led to a tense exchange between her and Scherer, who called the decision, without informing her or the prosecution, “the most unprofessional way of handling the case.” , is not allowed.”

Scherer also accused McNeill of insulting her “the whole trial blatantly” by “taking off your headphones, arguing with me, storming out, intentionally being late if you don’t like her verdict.” I.”

“So frankly, this is long overdue,” she added.
In Friday’s petition, defense attorneys said Scherer’s statements “reasonably caused Mr. Cruz to fear that the court was prejudiced against his attorneys and that he would not get a fair and objective trial in the future.”

“The court has now revealed that their hostility towards the lead defense counsel has long existed and has infected this entire trial,” the proposal added, noting that he accepted ” multiple adverse judgments” while believing he was getting a fair trial.

“However, now that the court has made it clear that their feelings for the defense attorney are longstanding and pervasive, Mr. Cruz has a reasonable belief that the court’s rulings were influenced by sentiment. To their detriment, this is going nowhere. legal issues in court,” the proposal said.

The petition, citing several other cases of alleged bias by Scherer, asks that she be removed from the proceedings and replaced with a new judge.

The trial, which has now ended for a second month, is solely aimed at determining whether Cruz was sentenced to death or life without parole.

The theme of his lawyers throughout their case was to show how his biological mother’s alcohol abuse during pregnancy had put him on a lifelong path of erratic, bizarre and often violent behavior. force, which culminated in a shooting. They also try to point out that his adoptive mother, Lynda Cruz, became overwhelmed after her husband died when he was 5 years old and was never treated properly.

They’re trying to get past the prosecution’s case, which focuses on his massacre when he stalked a three-story classroom building for seven minutes with an AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle. Chief Prosecutor Mike Satz played security video of the shooting and showed the rifle he was using. Teachers and students testify about watching others die.

Satz showed the autopsies and crime scene photographs and took the jurors to the fenced-in building, which was still covered in blood and bullet holes. Parents and spouses have released tearful and angry statements about their loss.

Prosecutors said they would need more than a week to prepare their dismissal case. The trial is scheduled to resume on September 27.