FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Broward County Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer scolded members of the defense team during Tuesday’s sentencing hearing for convicted Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz.
After returning from recess Tuesday afternoon, Broward County Public Defender Gordon Weekes told Scherer that some comments directed at Cruz’s defense attorneys during the morning’s victim impact statements were inciting violence, to which the prosecution objected.
“I feel that 99% or a great percentage that has been said has been appropriate,” Scherer said. “Everybody has maintained decorum but for a few comments. It’s best to just move on as opposed to highlight them.”
But Weekes said he was “witnessing a building of momentum.”
“And I’m encouraging the court to direct the state to tap down on that momentum so it does not reoccur and it does not become a theme,” Weekes added.
Assistant State Attorney Carolyn McCann said there “has been no encouraging or inciting, as Mr. Weekes has put on this record.”
“That is a blatant falsehood and a recreation of the record,” she said.
Chief Public Defender David Wheeler pressed Scherer, wanting to know if the court was going to do anything to stop it from happening again.
“When these people are upset about specific things that have gone on from that table like shooting the middle finger up at this court and laughing and joking – Ms. (Melisa) McNeill (lead defense attorney), be quiet – when these people have sat in this courtroom and watched this behavior from that table and they want to say that they’re not happy about it, what is the problem?”
Wheeler took offense to testimony that he claimed was made about his children.
“I didn’t even know you have children,” Scherer said. “I don’t even know what you’re talking about.”
Then Wheeler told Scherer that “if they were talking about your children, you would definitely notice it.”
“You need to sit down right now,” Scherer said to him. “You’re out of line. In fact, you’re excused. You need to go sit in the back with your chief public defender.”
“He’s the public defender,” Wheeler retorted.
“Mr. Weekes, please ask the lawyer from your office to go sit down and not say anything else,” Scherer said. “To try to threaten my children and bring up my children is inappropriate. Go to the back of the room now.”
Weekes then returned to the podium to speak with Scherer, but she wasn’t having it.
“Sit down, Mr. Weekes,” she told him, denying him a recess to speak with his attorneys.
Scherer continued to scold him as he walked away.
“You have absolutely no right to have one of your assistants come up here and suggest something about one of my children,” she told Weekes. “Now please go sit down. You’re inappropriate and out of line.”