On Wednesday, after the sentencing hearing for the Parkland school shooter concluded, the judge hugged the prosecutors, which caused alarm among some of the attorneys who had been following the case closely.
It was Judge Elizabeth Scherer of the Broward County Circuit Court who presided over the case, and it was broadcast live online. Over the course of several years, she had a contentious relationship with the public defense team, and films show her setting clear limits and getting into heated arguments with them.
The hugs came after two days of testimony in which, over Weekes’ protests, the families of the victims were free to express their anguish. Partners with the Miami law firm Jones Walker Waechter, including attorney David Weinstein, who said that Scherer was reacting to an emotionally trying day.
Weinstein, who has worked as a county and federal prosecutor, said, “The public defenders may now allege, based on the embraces that were observed of the prosecution team, that she may no longer be impartial.”
Those closest to the victims of the 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School didn’t hold back in their grief. The argument ended in tears, accusations, and cussing. Some of them were directed at Nikolas Cruz specifically, while others took aim at the defense.
After an argumentative conversation with Public Defender Gordon Weekes, Scherer finally told him to “Go sit down!” and ended her interactions with the defense. Chief Judge Jack Tuter was invited to comment on his treatment by the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.