Nikolas Cruz sentencing trial live updates: Psychologist refutes gunman's diagnosis




  • In US
  • 2022-10-03 17:04:41Z
  • By Palm Beach Daily News

FORT LAUDERDALE - Jurors returned to a Fort Lauderdale courtroom Monday for what's expected to be the final stretch in the sentencing trial of Nikolas Cruz, the Parkland school gunman.

Cruz pleaded guilty in 2021 to killing 17 people and wounding 17 others at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2018. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

A 12-person jury will recommend whether Cruz, then 19 and now 24, is put to death or sentenced to life in prison. If it recommends death, a move that must be unanimous, Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer will make the final ruling.

Cruz's team of public defenders rested its case on Sept. 14, setting the stage for prosecutors' rebuttal and closing arguments over the coming weeks.

The Palm Beach Post is covering the daily proceedings live. Follow below for updates throughout Monday, Oct. 3.

'He dreams of killing others': Witnesses say Nikolas Cruz's childhood marked by paranoia, aggression

Time hasn't healed Parkland's wounds: Lives of victims' families marked by absence, anguish, sorrow

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz is shown at the defense table during the penalty phase of Cruz’s trial at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale on Tuesday, Sept.
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz is shown at the defense table during the penalty phase of Cruz’s trial at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale on Tuesday, Sept.  

Psychologist rebuts defense's claim Cruz had fetal alcohol syndrome disorder

Forensic psychologist Charles Scott returned to the witness stand Monday to resume his testimony, cut short last week by Hurricane Ian.

Scott met with Cruz over three days and 21 hours in March and diagnosed the gunman with borderline and antisocial personality disorders - not fetal alcohol syndrome disorder, contrary to the diagnoses of experts hired by the gunman's defense team.

Scott said he found evidence that Cruz was faking or exaggerating his symptoms and could control his behavior when he wanted to. His testimony is at odds with the portrait of Cruz the defense team has spent weeks building - one of a child rendered "irretrievably broken" by his biological mother's substance abuse.

Video clips of Scott's interview with Cruz interspersed the psychologist's testimony. In them, Cruz recited the facts of school shootings that preceded his with a cold clarity and the lessons they taught him.             

"They went as fast as possible, and the police didn't do anything," he said. "It means if I go on a school campus, police are not going to do anything. I have a small opportunity to shoot people for maybe 20 minutes."

He had fewer than seven before he abandoned his rifle and blended into the crowds of fleeing students on Feb. 14, 2018.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz is shown in a taped interview with forensic psychologist Dr.
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz is shown in a taped interview with forensic psychologist Dr.  

Planned and organized aggression are not characteristics of fetal alcohol syndrome, Scott told the jurors Monday. He pointed to Cruz's study of mass shootings in the months leading up to the massacre, documented in an extensive internet history log read aloud to jurors, as evidence of Cruz's ability to remember and carry out a plan.

"It involves a wide range of thinking skills," Scott said.

Hannah Phillips is a journalist covering public safety and criminal justice at The Palm Beach Post. You can reach her at hphillips@pbpost.com.

This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Parkland shooter trial: Prosecutors rebut fetal alcohol syndrome claims

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