Court Battles

Judge rules trial participants aren’t allowed to refer to Parkland suspect using derogatory language

A Florida judge ruled Friday that participants in the future trial of the alleged Parkland shooter cannot refer to him using derogatory language, according to CNN.

In her ruling, Broward County Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer said that she could not create “an exhaustive list of words” that shouldn’t be used to describe Nikolas Cruz, but said words like “animal” or “that thing” would not be permitted during the trial. 

Cruz, 22, was charged with 34 counts of premeditated and attempted murder for allegedly killing 17 people and wounding 17 others at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., in February, 2018.

Scherer said the defense asked that words like “school shooter,” “murderer” or “killer” not be used, either. However, she said these words were not derogatory, but “normal words or terms that may be used to describe particular facts.”

That also applies to the shooting itself, adding that the word “massacre,” which describes a “particular circumstance” and is not, “in and of itself,” a derogatory word, CNN noted. 

In a virtual hearing with Cruz, assistant public defender Melissa McNeill requested that he be referred to as “the defendant” and that the school shooting only be referred to as “the incident, the mass shooting or the tragedy,” according to CNN. She argued that it would be “improper to refer to the accused in derogatory terms,” adding that “the evidence speaks for itself.”

The news outlet noted that prosecutor Nicole Chiappone said there was no law stopping the state from referring to a defendant as a murderer during a murder trial. 

“That’s not a derogatory word, that’s not an inflammatory word, that’s not commenting on his character, it’s not even name-calling,” Chiappone said during the hearing. “It’s what he’s charged with.”
 
News of the judges ruling comes after the suspect’s attorneys requested that media and the public be barred from the trial proceedings. 
 
Scherer said that Cruz will be “tried on the evidence and what the attorneys say is not evidence,” and added that a trial “is not the time for the attorneys to editorialize or give their opinions of a defendant.”
 
“The trial attorneys shall present the evidence, and the jury shall make their determinations based on the evidence presented,” Scherer wrote in her ruling, according to CNN.
 
Prosecutors are looking to request the death penalty for Cruz, who previously pleaded not guilty. However, his defense team said he would plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence without the possibility of parole. 

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