Prosecutors will soon start turning over evidence to the legal team of Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz as a judge on Friday nudged attorneys to start scheduling depositions of witnesses.
"I don't want this case treading water," Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer told lawyers during a brief hearing on Friday.
Cruz, 19, is accused of murdering 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High on Feb. 14 in the worst school shooting in Florida history. Broward State Attorney Michael Satz, who appeared for the hearing and will try the case, is seeking the death penalty against Cruz.
The Broward Public Defender's Office, which this week was allowed to remain representing Cruz, has said its client would plead guilty immediately if prosecutors waive the death penalty and agree to life in prison. Assistant Public Defender Melissa McNeil said the office would be filing the formal legal paperwork requesting "discovery" — the witness statements, surveillance videos, crime-scene photos, police documents and other evidence amassed by prosecutors in what figures to be a complex and immense case.
Under Florida's public-records law, much of what is turned over during the discovery process can be made public and given to the media. That doesn't include evidence such as the identities of certain witnesses, confessions or autopsy photos. To help prepare for trial, defense lawyers can also schedule depositions, or interviews, with witnesses in the case.
Cruz, shackled and surrounded by deputies, appeared in court, his head down as usual. His younger brother, Zachary Cruz, was also present — watching from the courtroom gallery. Judge Scherer set another hearing date for May 25. It could be weeks or months before a trial date is even scheduled.