Judge: Release Parkland shooting suspect's education report
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — A report detailing the educational background of Florida school shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz should be made public despite defense concerns it might threaten his right to a fair trial, a judge ruled today.
Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer said at a hearing the redactions protect Cruz's privacy rights and overruled defense objections the report paints a misleading portrait of Cruz's long-standing psychological problems, many of which have already been disclosed. Judge Scherer said all Cruz's actual educational records are among 27 pages of redacted material.
"I do find there is nothing in the redacted report ... that would interfere with the administration of justice and the defendant's right to a fair trial," Judge Scherer said.
Attorneys for media organizations including The Associated Press argued the report must be disclosed under Florida's broad public records laws.
It wasn't immediately clear when the report might be released. Debra Klauber, an attorney for the Broward County school board, said officials would consult with Cruz's defense attorneys on the timing. The defense lawyers said no further appeals were planned.
Cruz, 19, faces the death penalty if convicted of 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the Valentine's Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. His attorneys have said he will plead guilty if guaranteed a life prison sentence, but prosecutors have rejected that offer.
Defense attorney David Frankel said the independent report, commissioned by the school board, appears crafted to defend against civil claims filed by victims' families, by attempting to show that Cruz's mental problems did not rise to a level that caused great concern. That could affect jurors considering Cruz's guilt and his sentence at a criminal trial.