Nikolas Cruz's Instagram Will Be Shown to Jurors Deciding Death Penalty or Life in Prison

At a Monday hearing, a judge ruled the prosecution in the penalty trial against Nikolas Cruz, who killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, is able to use Cruz's public Instagram posts in their case.

Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer said "the defense did not establish reasonable expectation of privacy," as the now-23-year-old Cruz's accounts were public at the time of the February 14, 2018, mass shooting, WPLG reported.

The trial, set to begin February 21, will decide whether Cruz gets life in prison or the death penalty after he pleaded guilty to fatally shooting students and faculty at the Parkland, Florida, school. The Associated Press reported the trial is expected to span two months. All 12 jurors must agree in order to hand down the death penalty.

According to WTVJ, Nawal Bashimam, one of Cruz's public defenders, argued that even people with public accounts can expect privacy, to which Scherer responded, "If you make your account public, how can you possibly have a reasonable expectation of privacy when the entire world can see it?"

In a USA Today article published the day after the shooting, students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas described the "disturbing" images that Cruz had posted to his account, such as posts of him posing with a gun and posts talking about killing animals and doing "target practice" in his backyard.

WTVJ said Scherer and Bashimam got into a "heated dispute" as Broward County sheriff's detective Michael Joo gave testimony on some factual errors investigators made in search warrant applications, which Joo and other assisting detectives copied into their warrant applications.

For example, investigators called Cruz's brother a victim's brother, had the wrong date for Cruz's mother's death and falsely said a school security guard instantly recognized Cruz's name when seeing him prior to the shooting and called for a lockdown.

Scherer had previously ruled these errors were unintentional and did not affect a different judge's decision to grant the warrants, according to WTVJ. Scherer said her earlier ruling was final, not allowing Bashimam to ask Joo many questions about the errors.

Bashimam said Scherer was blocking 10 minutes of questioning that was supposed to protect Cruz's "constitutional rights," the WTVJ report said.

Newsweek previously reported the trial had initially been scheduled to begin January 4, but Scherer pushed it back to allow the prosecution and the defense more time to prepare their experts. COVID-19 concerns and arguments on what evidence will be allowed were also factors in the delay.

Nikolas Cruz, shooter, Florida, court
A judge ruled the prosecution in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz's penalty trial will be allowed to use his public Instagram posts. Above, Cruz flips the pages of his tablet back after writing in it during a hearing at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on January 24, 2022. Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel via AP, Pool