Published on: Saturday, November 5, 2022

Florida criminal defense attorneys said the judge overseeing sentencing of the shooter in the 2018 Parkland school shooting was "hostile and demeaning" toward defense counsel, conduct that "reveals temperament ill-suited to the criminal bench" (article available here).

The Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers wrote a letter to Chief Judge Jack Tuter of the 17th Judicial Circuit complaining about Broward County Judge Elizabeth Scherer's behavior during sentencing proceedings for 24-year-old Nikolas Cruz. Cruz was convicted of killing 17 people in the February 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

The president of the defense lawyers association said in Thursday's letter that Judge Scherer's comments and actions during the proceedings were offensive and "detrimental to the integrity of the judiciary and the judicial system." He urged the chief judge to address the matter with the judge and "take all appropriate steps to ensure she is not in a position to prejudice any other criminal cases."

"The image of a judge relegating an elected public defender and his top assistant to go sit in the corner like misbehaving children is offensive and discounts their very vital and difficult role in this system."

The association has not filed a formal complaint with the state's Judicial Qualifications Commission.

Cruz pleaded guilty in October 2021. The death-penalty phase of the trial began this summer and the jury returned a life verdict. Cruz was sentenced to life in prison without parole Nov. 2.

Judge Scherer, a former prosecutor, was seen hugging members of the prosecution team in the courtroom, according to footage obtained by local television station.