Jurors in Stoneman Douglas mass shooting trial will not be anonymous, judge says | national news

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Prosecutors and defense attorneys in the mass shooting trial of Marjory Stoneman Douglas will be allowed to refer to potential jurors by name, a Broward County judge ruled Friday.

The ruling denies a defense request that potential jurors deciding the fate of confessed Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nickolas Cruz be referred by number, not name. The request would have protected jurors from having their names released to the public and, by extension, the news media.

“What (the) defendant is asking is not allowed,” Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer wrote in her decision. “Exemptions to specific public records laws cannot be created out of thin air.”

The defense motion would have barred court staff and the media from releasing the names of jurors, which are a public record under the law. During trials, the court prohibits the media from taking photos and videos showing the faces of jurors, and jurors are strictly prohibited from speaking to the media or anyone else about their cases.

But their names have always been public knowledge and members of the media are legally allowed to question jurors after the trials are over. In practice, such interviews are infrequent but not unusual.

In his decision, Scherer left the door open for the defense to present a stronger argument to prevent the public disclosure of jurors’ names.

Scherer didn’t always agree with the media during the case. In the summer of 2018, months after Cruz murdered 17 people and injured 17 others at Parkland High School, Scherer lambasted the South Florida Sun Sentinel for leaking school records that were insufficiently redacted by the Broward School District.

At the time, Scherer was toying with the idea of ​​telling the media what they could and could not publish in the future. She later backed out of the threat, which has been criticized by media law experts as an example of “prior restraint,” which is prohibited. Scherer cited the same principle in denying the defense’s request for an anonymous jury.

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Elna M. Lemons