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Deplorable and disgusting — the dishonorable display shown by the Parkland shooter’s defense team | Tough Love

Many remember the fateful day of Feb.14, 2018, when 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz opened fire on Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, but what most forget about is the aftermath of the tragedy. 

Cruz formerly attended Stoneman Douglas, and therefore, was able to blend into the student population with a shirt that had the highschool’s logo before opening fire at 2:19 p.m. with a legally purchased AR-15 assault rifle. He was arrested about an hour later, but in the mere four minutes that his rampage ensued, 17 were injured, and another 17 were killed. 

With school shootings being so common nowadays, it seems difficult to keep up with the various trials occurring for the shooters who make it out alive.

In October 2022 the jury finally determined Cruz was guilty. However, due to a split in opinion, the jurors took the death penalty sentence off the table and instead recommended life without parole, much to the dismay of some of the Parkland victims’ families.

Whether or not people agree with the verdict, I find most contention with the behavior displayed by Cruz’s defense team throughout the trial — who faced verbal warnings from a Florida Circuit Judge, Elizabeth Scherer. 

“We’re not playing chess,” rebuffed Scherer after the defense team was reluctant to name their next witness.

It is important to note that the integrity of Cruz’s team was already being questioned after video footage from this summer, before the pretrial hearing, showed Tamara Curtis, an assistant public defender, in front of a court camera rubbing her middle finger on her cheek. Cruz and Curtis were then seen laughing together. 

To conduct such unprofessional mannerisms in court is an abhorrent display on its own, but to then joke around with a murderer on trial is beyond deplorable. Cruz, with no remorse, took away the lives of 17 innocent people — he has lost the right to be treated any better than what he is: a criminal.

“This is the most uncalled for, unprofessional way to try a case,” Scherer asserted in retaliation to the defenses’ disorganization when they would not name their next witness.

The defense team also argued over whether relatives of the Parkland victims would have the right to speak against Cruz’s defense attorneys for their behavior during sentencing. Chief assistant public defender, Melissa McNeill, argued against this motion.

“I did my job,” she said to Scherer. “And every member of this team did our job, and we should not personally be attacked for that, nor should our children.”

Personally, I find no issue in any of the victim’s families wanting to speak directly to the defense team because I found their display in court to be utterly despicable. To come to court unprepared, delaying the trial process, as well as to joke with Cruz whilst the deaths of 17 people are being discussed, is absolutely disgusting. 

Giving their testimonies at sentencing would have nothing to do with the defense, but would offer them a chance to air out any lasting grievances with Cruz in person.

Additionally, a circulating video showed Curtis later crying over Cruz’s verdict. 

While it may be hard for attorneys to not get personally involved in the cases they work on, the story of Cruz is much different. He was not the only innocent kid to have a traumatic past — hundreds of kids have rough upbringings and a history of mental illness. That is not a justification for a school shooting. 

There is absolutely no excuse in the world that can amend what Cruz did to the students of Parkland, Florida. With that being said, to have the same attorney who was previously seen laughing and joking around with him mid-trial now cry because he is being put away for murder indicates to me that their relationship was not professional.

The Florida State Bar is now investigating Curtis, but to say this in any way settles my feelings about watching her shed real tears over a murderer would be a lie.

As a collective, the defense team very clearly violated the proper code of conduct for a standard court proceeding, but even worse, made a complete joke out of something as sinister as a school shooting. I strongly feel that Curtis should not be the only one who has her law license put on the line — every single person who defended Cruz in that horribly disrespectful manner should have their integrity as both a person and an attorney questioned.

One Comment

  1. Thank you, Analise, for putting a focus on the defense team’s unprofessional and disrespectful behavior.