Nikolas Cruz returns to court Friday in Broward County, Florida. The hearing is scheduled to begin at 10:00 a.m. ET. He is charged with 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted first-degree murder for the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2018.
Cruz’s attorneys are gearing up for a mental health defense, and they want to keep the names of their experts secret from prosecutors for now.
“The State’s right to notice of the identities of defense-retained experts is limited [emphasis theirs] to experts Defense counsel intends to call as witnesses,” Cruz’s defense said in a March 23 motion obtained by Law&Crime.
They plan on having mental health experts meet the defendant in jail, but voiced concern that prosecutors could learn the identities of these people by simply reviewing visitor logs through a public record request or through other means. It would take very little effort to determine their specialties since the state would only have to put their names into a search engine, said the defense.
Cruz’s lawyers are arguing that the rules “would be rendered virtually meaningless” if prosecutors knew the identities of all defense experts who met Cruz at the jail, whether or not these people would actually testify. In short: The identity of defense experts who meet Cruz is none of the prosecution’s business, and disclosing this information would violate attorney-client privilege. The state only needs to know the names of people who take the stand, said the attorneys.
Friday’s hearing will also see the state ask that the court release certain records (e.g. school and hospital records) to law enforcement investigating the case.
Seventeen people died as a result of the mass shooting: 14-year-old student Alyssa Alhadeff, 35-year-old teacher Scott Beigel, 14-year-old student Martin Duque Anguiano, 17-year-old student Nicholas Dworet, 37-year-old assistant football coach Aaron Feis, 14-year-old student Jaime Guttenberg, 49-year-old athletic director Christopher Hixon, 15-year-old student Luke Hoyer, 14-year-old student Cara Loughran, 14-year-old student Gina Montalto, 17-year-old student Joaquin Oliver, 14-year-old student Alaina Petty, 18-year-old student Meadow Pollack, 17-year-old student Helena Ramsay, 14-year-old student Alexander Schachter, 16-year-old student Carmen Schentrup, and 15-year-old student Peter Wang.
[Image via Taimy Alvarez-Pool/Getty Images]