Nikolas Cruz's Alleged Role in Parkland Shooting Complicates Jury Choice for Unrelated Trial

Jury selection for a trial resulting from a jail fight involving alleged Parkland, Florida, school shooter Nikolas Cruz has been delayed amid complications, the Associated Press reported.

Nine months after authorities allege Cruz killed 14 students and three staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Cruz was charged with attacking Broward County Jail guard Sergeant Raymond Beltran in November of 2018.

Finding jurors who can decide his jail-fight case based on evidence and not their knowledge of the Parkland shooting will be difficult, AP reported.

Cruz's brawl trial was delayed on Monday because his lead lawyer is hospitalized with an undisclosed illness. Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer ruled that jury selection will begin on Tuesday.

Jaclyn Broudy, Cruz's battery case second attorney "is experienced and capable to take over as lead counsel," Scherer said.

The delay, Scherer said, will give Broward County Public Defender Gordon Weekes time to assign someone to assist Broudy. Scherer suggested that Weekes assign one of the public defenders representing Cruz in the murder case, but Weekes said they are busy preparing for that trial.

For more reporting by the Associated Press, see below.

Parkland shooting suspect's jail brawl trial delayed
Parkland school shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz is on trial for allegedly attacking a jail guard in Broward County, Florida. Above, Cruz speaks with his attorney at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale. Amy Beth Bennett/AP

Cruz's trial for the February 14, 2018, slayings remains unscheduled. It has been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic and arguments over evidence and possible testimony. Throughout Monday's hearing, the former Stoneman Douglas student sat quietly at the defense table dressed in a dark blue sweater and white shirt instead of the orange jail jumpsuit he normally wore at pretrial hearings.

Weekes had asked that Scherer delay jury selection for two weeks so a second attorney could be fully briefed, but the judge said this is not a complicated case and would normally be handled by one attorney.

Cruz faces a possible 15-year sentence if convicted of attempted criminal battery on a law enforcement officer and three lesser charges. Cruz will get either death or life in prison without parole if he is later found guilty of first-degree murder, but this trial still has relevance.

If Cruz is convicted of attacking Beltran, prosecutors can argue that is an aggravating factor when they seek his execution during the penalty phase of his murder trial if convicted.

Beltran told investigators that Cruz attacked him after he asked him to stop dragging his feet and damaging his sandals. Cruz's attorneys are expected to argue that Beltran had a history of mistreating Cruz and verbally instigated the fight, which was recorded by a security camera that doesn't capture sound.

Cruz's murder trial is expected to take months. His attorneys have said he would plead guilty to 17 murders in exchange for a life sentence. Prosecutors have rejected that offer, saying this case deserves a death sentence.