‘We're not playing chess’: Furious judge Elizabeth Scherer slams Nikolas Cruz's lawyers for abruptly resting case
FORT LAUDERDALE, FLORIDA: The defense team in the trial of Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz abruptly rested their case on September 14, leading the judge to lashing out at Cruz’s lawyers for what she described as a "level of unprofessionalism" she had never experienced in her career before. Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer said, "We're not playing chess. I just want to say this is the most uncalled for, unprofessional way to try the case."
According to Daily Mail, as soon as the jury was about to enter the courtroom, lead defense lawyer, Melisa McNeill, who previously told the judge they would be calling 80 witnesses and ended up calling only about 25 that day, got up and said, “the defense rests.” To which, the judge said, "You all knew about this, and even if you didn’t make your decision until this morning, to have 22 [jurors] plus all of this staff and every attorney march into court and be waiting as if it’s some kind of game. Now I have to send them home, the state’s not ready, they’re not going to have a witness ready [for rebuttal], we have another day wasted. Honestly, I have never experienced a level of unprofessionalism in my career. It’s unbelievable," as per NBC.
Countering the judge, McNeill told, "You are insulting me on the record in front of my client and I believe that I should be able to defend myself." Scherer cut her and said, "You can do that later, you can make your record later but you've been insulting me the entire trial, blatantly, taking your headphones off, arguing with me, storming out, coming late intentionally if you don't like my rulings, so quite frankly this has been long overdue. So please be seated."
The judge then asked Cruz if he was satisfied with his defense after a list of potential witnesses who would not be called to testify was read into the court record. She questioned, "Are there any of those people that you feel need to be called [to testify] before you rest?" Cruz replied, "I don't know who those people are," and later said, "No, I think we're good," as quoted by NBC.
The case of Cruz, who pleaded guilty in October 2021, for murdering 17 people and for 17 attempted murders at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14, 2018, will now begin on September 27, while the closing arguments are set to take place on October 10.