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Guards fear for Nikolas Cruz's safety during chaotic jury selection Tuesday

Man mouths expletives after seeing Cruz in courtroom
Nikolas Cruz tucks in shirt before jury selection in penalty phase of murder trial, April 26, 2022
Posted at 8:50 AM, Apr 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-27 08:50:24-04

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — There were some shocking moments Tuesday inside the Broward County Courthouse after an entire panel of jurors was dismissed.

A man was heard making comments and mouthing expletives after seeing Nikolas Cruz in the courtroom, and then others started joining in.

As the man was being escorted out, Judge Elizabeth Scherer said guards were concerned he may try to run up to Cruz. Guards put Cruz against a wall, fearing for his safety.

"There were three people that were in close proximity that were making a threat and then there was another one in the back who started to join in," Scherer said.

This comes after Scherer threw out two weeks of work Monday and started the process all over after an error was made.

"This is a case that's going to be scrutinized for years and years to come on appeal and nobody wants to make a mistake," West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney Ian Goldstein said.

Cruz's defense team objected to starting jury selection over and plans to debate the judge's ruling Wednesday.

All of this comes after 11 potential jurors were improperly dismissed on the second day of jury selection, saying they could not follow the law.

"The defense is not looking for a clean trial here," Goldstein said. "The defense is looking to win or to be able to come back on appeal and say there was a mistake made and get a second shot."

Joe Guastaferro, jury consultant in Palm Beach County
Joe Guastaferro believes allowing 11 jurors back into the jury pool would be a big mistake.

But prosecutors wanted to start fresh, citing "too many issues at this point."

They wanted a clean slate to prevent a possible retrial.

"I think I side with the prosecutors in terms of avoiding an enormous — and I mean gigantic — appellate mess by continuing," Joe Guastaferro, a jury consultant in Palm Beach County, told WPTV.

He's been involved in other high-profile death penalty cases.

Guastaferro said jury selection is ripe for errors and allowing those 11 jurors who were excused back into the pool would be a mistake.

"We have no idea what they were exposed to and what they would then bring into the panel to taint other people," Guastaferro said.

Experts said it's fair for the judge to give the defense the opportunity to raise issues and argue Wednesday morning against starting over, but they believe it is unlikely she will change her mind.