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Jury selection begins in trial of Parkland school gunman

Parkland school shooting
Posted at 7:38 AM, Apr 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-04 09:53:35-04

Jury selection in the deadliest U.S. mass shooting ever to go to trial is about to begin.

A judge, prosecutors and defense attorneys are scheduled on Monday to screen the first candidates for the 12-member panel that will decide if Nikolas Cruz is executed or gets life in prison.

Cruz has already pleaded guilty to the 2018 murders of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Court officials say 1,500 candidates or more could be brought before Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer, prosecutors and the gunman's public defenders for initial screening over the next several weeks.

The final panel will comprise 12 jurors plus eight alternates.

For most of the next several weeks, prospective jurors will be brought into the courtroom in groups of 60, about four per day.

They will be asked if they can put aside any animosity toward the gunman and judge the case fairly.

They will then be asked if they are available from June through September. Out of each group, Scherer is hoping five remain.

Tony Montalto, whose 14-year-old daughter, Gina, died in the attack, said the trial "has been a long time coming."

"I just hope everyone remembers the victims," he said. The gunman, he said, "told the world his plans on social media, carried out those plans in a cold and calculated manner and murdered my beautiful daughter, 13 of her classmates and three of her teachers."

The parents and spouses of victims who have spoken publicly said they are in favor of the gunman's execution. Montalto has not answered the question directly, but has said on multiple occasions that he "deserves every chance he gave Gina and the others."