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Judge Must Decide Whether Jurors Get FL School Gunman Brain Scans

Wesley Center, a defense mental health expert in the case of Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz, realized that the 23-year-old mass murderer had “irrational thoughts” when Cruz began describing plans for a life outside prison. The defense this week will try to convince Judge Elizabeth Scherer that Center and other experts should be allowed to testify at Cruz’s penalty trial about what their tests showed, something the prosecution wants barred. In fact, Cruz never will be free., reports the Associated Press. Since his arrest after he murdered 14 students and three staff members at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2018, there has never been any doubt his remaining years would be behind bars. Surveillance video shows him mowing down his victims with an AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle and he pleaded guilty in October.


Prosecutors made their argument for death to the seven-man, five-woman jury over three weeks, resting Aug. 4 after the panel toured the still-bloodstained, bullet-pocked school where the massacre happened. Jurors saw graphic surveillance videos, gruesome crime scene and autopsy photos, and emotional testimony from teachers and students who witnessed others die; and heard from tearful and angry parents, spouses and other family members about the victims and how their loved one’s death affected their lives. Cruz’s attorneys will argue why he should be spared, hoping to convince at least one juror their mitigating factors outweigh the prosecution’s aggravating circumstances. A death sentence must be unanimous. The jury will be absent this week as attorneys argue before Scherer, who will decide whether brain scans, tests and other evidence the defense wants to present starting Aug. 22 is scientifically valid or junk, as the prosecution contends. Backers of Center’s test, a “quantitative electroencephalogram” or “qEEG,” say it provides support to such diagnoses as fetal alcohol syndrome, which Cruz’s attorneys contend created his lifelong mental and emotional problems.


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A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

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