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Two-Month Trial Begins For Ex-Parkland, Fl., Sheriff's Deputy

Jury selection began Wednesday in the trial of a former Florida sheriff’s deputy charged with failing to confront the shooter who killed 14 students and three staff members at a Parkland high school five years ago, the Associated Press reports. The first four dozen prospective jurors in ex-Broward County Deputy Scot Peterson ’s child neglect trial were brought into Circuit Judge Martin’s Fein’s courtroom at mid-morning. Fein, prosecutors and Peterson’s attorney will spend several days winnowing through hundreds of prospects until they find a pool of 50 who say they could serve for the two months the trial is expected to take. Attorneys will try next week to agree on a panel of six and four alternates. Florida is one of six states that allow six-member juries for trials other than capital murder. The others are Arizona, Connecticut, Indiana, Massachusetts and Utah. All other states use 12-member juries in felony trials.

Peterson, 60, remained outside a three-story classroom building at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School during Nikolas Cruz’s six-minute attack on Feb. 14, 2018. He is charged with seven counts of felony child neglect for four students killed and three wounded on the building’s third floor. Peterson arrived with his gun drawn 73 seconds before Cruz reached that floor, but instead of entering, he backed away as gunfire sounded.

He says he thought the shots were coming from outside the building, perhaps from a sniper. His attorney argues that under Florida law, Peterson had no legal obligation to enter the building and confront Cruz. Peterson is charged with three counts of misdemeanor culpable negligence for the adults shot on the third floor, including a teacher and an adult student who died. He faces a perjury charge for allegedly lying to investigators. Peterson retired after the shooting and was fired retroactively. Cruz pleaded guilty in 2021 to the killings. In a penalty trial last year, his jury couldn’t unanimously agree on whether he deserved the death penalty. The 24-year-old former Stoneman Douglas student was sentenced to life in prison.


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