Nikolas Cruz, the accused gunman at a Florida high school last week, asked the judge to recuse herself after she criticized his attorneys in court.
Broward County Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer scolded defense attorney Melisa McNeill on Wednesday for failing to give the court advance notice of the defense team’s intention to rest so that the state could prepare witnesses for their rebuttal argument.
The motion was filed by McNeil on Saturday morning, and in it she slammed Scherer for questioning her professionalism and then telling the jury that the two week break was the defense’s fault so that the prosecution could prepare.
McNeil stated that the defense was under no need to notify the state or the court of its plan to rest before doing so.
Both a mistrial and the judge’s recusal were requested by the defense.
Assistant State Attorney Carolyn McCann responded to the motion by arguing that the judge’s “critical or hostile” comments do not warrant a mistrial.
On Monday, at a hearing, Scherer denied the motion to dismiss her.
Chief defense attorney Melisa McNeill for Nikolas Cruz in Broward County Circuit Court on September 14, 2022, before Judge Elizabeth Scherer chastised her.
On September 14, 2022, Melisa McNeill, the primary defense attorney for Nikolas Cruz, appeared in Broward County Circuit Court, where she was chastised by Judge Elizabeth Scherer. (Amy Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel/Associated Press, Pool)
On Wednesday, when it became clear that the defense would not be calling any more witnesses, things started to heat up when Scherer reprimanded McNeill.
She snapped, “We’re not playing chess.” “A trial conducted in such an uncalled-for and unprofessional manner would be a disgrace to the legal system. To have 22 people plus all the staff and every attorney march into court and be waiting as if it were some kind of game — and you all knew about this beforehand or made your decision this morning — is ridiculous, and I am forced to send them home.”
Scherer became angry at McNeill when she attempted to reply. The judge said to McNeill, “You have been insulting me the entire trial, so shamelessly. “Taking out the headphones. disputing my claims. Leaving in a huff. Being purposefully late if you disagree with my decisions is unacceptable, and this is, in all honesty, long overdue.”
The mistrial motion has not been decided upon by the judge.
We are now two months into the capital trial of Nikolas Cruz, who on February 14, 2018, carried out one of the bloodiest mass shootings in U.S. history when he opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, murdering 17 people.
Since he has already entered a plea of guilty, the sole issue at trial is whether or not he will be sentenced to death or life in prison without the prospect of release.