Nikolas Cruz sentencing - live: Parkland trial delayed due to hurricane threat in Florida

The sentencing trial of Parkland gunman Nikolas Cruz has been delayed once again as Hurricane Ian continues to strengthen on its path towards Florida.

Judge Elizabeth Scherer postponed the trial until Monday when the state will resume its rebuttal case.

The rebuttal began on Tuesday with witnesses testifying that Cruz’s gun magazine and boots were decorated with swastikas. Jurors were also shown his internet history, including searches for Nazi paraphernalia and child porn as well as racist comments about Black people.

Forensic psychiatrist Dr Charles Scott then detailed how he disgnosed Cruz with antisocial personality disorder .

The state is seeking to show that Cruz is a sociopath who planned his attack and has no remorse for murdering 17 victims – challenging Cruz’s defence that fetal alcohol spectrum disorders led him to carry out one of the worst mass shootings in American history.

On Valentine’s Day 2018, Cruz, then 19, travelled to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School with an AR-15 and gunned down students and staff.

In October, Cruz, now 24, pleaded guilty to 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder.

Jurors will now decide whether to sentence him to death or to life in prison.

Nikolas Cruz’s sentencing trial

  • Hurricane Ian forces trial to be called off

  • Psychiatrist diagnoses Cruz with antisocial personality disorder

  • Cruz claims swastikas are ‘symbol of peace'

  • Gunman used hemorrhoids blood to write on cell wall, court hears

  • Court sees photos of swastikas carved on Cruz’s gun magazine and boots

  • Cruz searched for nude ‘little girls’, Nazi items and made racist comments online

Trial called off for remainder of week due to Hurricane Ian

22:30 , Rachel Sharp

The trial has been called off for the remainder of the week as Hurricane Ian continues on its path towards Florida.

Judge Elizabeth Scherer announced on Tuesday afternoon that the court would be on recess on Wednesday and Thursday because of the incoming storm.

Jurors will return to the courthouse on Monday when Dr Scott is expected to resume his testimony.

On Tuesday morning, the trial had been expected to carry on as planned with Broward County Courthouse saying that it had no plans to close at that time.

However, Ian continued to strengthen throughout the day, with the category 3 storm already bringing impacts to Key West on Tuesday.

Court on recess

22:06 , Rachel Sharp

The court has gone on recess for the day and jurors have been excused.

Psychiatrist casts doubt on impact of alcohol in womb

21:49 , Rachel Sharp

Dr Scott cast doubts on the defence’s claims that Cruz suffers from a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) because his biological mother drank while pregnant.

The psychiatrist said that Cruz appeared to have a healthy weight for a baby when born.

He also raised doubts about the extent that his biological mother abused alcohol when he was in the womb.

The defence’s case focused on their argument that Cruz had FASD which contributed to his actions on Valentine’s Day 2018.

Cruz claims swastikas are ‘symbol of peace'

21:07 , Rachel Sharp

In a video clip from Dr Scott’s interview with Nikolas Cruz on 1 March 2022, the mass shooter tried to claim that he placed swastikas on his items as a symbol “of peace”.

The footage was played in court as an example of when the forensic psychiatrist found that Cruz was malingering.

Dr Scott was seen asking Cruz about his use of swastikas.

Cruz claimed that he only put swastikas on his items “for attention” – before then claiming he saw it as a “peace” sign.

“Anything about swastikas or when I said nasty remarks about race... it was all for attention,” he said.

Earlier on Tuesday, the court was shown a photo of a gun magazine used in the 2018 massacre. The magazine had a swastika carved in it.

Cruz claimed that he wasn’t responsible for carving the Nazi symbol on it.

“I didn’t write that at all,” he said, claiming that a friend drew it on the magazine when they were “just chilling out”.

Cruz admitted he did carve a swastika on his military boots that he wore to carry out the attack.

“Someone told me I had a swastika on my boot. I did do that but that was just for attention,” he said.

When asked about what he understood about the Nazi symbol, Cruz said that it was originally a Native American symbol for peace before the Nazis used it.

He claimed that he mainly saw it as a symbol for “peace”.

Victims’ family members were seen smirking in disbelief and shaking their heads in the gallery in the courtroom.

Dr Scott said that he believes Cruz was “trying to manage people” and put himself in a “positive light”, saying that thinking the swastika was a symbol for peace is “inconsistent” with using an item featuring it to kill 17 people with a gun.

Dr Scott says Cruz faked symptoms

20:40 , Rachel Sharp

Dr Scott returned to the stand after the brief recess, continuing to explain how he reached his diagnosis of Nikolas Cruz.

He explained how he reached his diagnosis that Cruz also has borderline personality disorder, along with antisocial personality disorder.

The psychiatrist said that he also found “robust evidence” of malingering – where an individual fakes or exaggerates their symptoms.

He said that Cruz was “reporting extreme mental health symptoms and physical symptoms are highly atypical” and “not supported by records”.

Court takes a 15-minute recess

20:10 , Rachel Sharp

The court has taken an afternoon break for around 15 minutes.

Cruz describes skinning lizards alive aged four

20:04 , Rachel Sharp

Video footage was played in court where Cruz described skinning lizards alive from the age of four.

The footage was a clip from an interview with Dr Scott in March of this year, where the psychiatrist questioned him about the first time he was cruel to animals.

Cruz told Dr Scott that the first time he could recall was hitting a lizard with a rock when he was three.

“It was just something me and my brother did,” he said.

He said that sometimes he would “skin them alive” and “set fire to” lizards.

Cruz is seen acting out “scraping” the skin off lizards.

Dr Scott diagnosed Cruz with antisocial personality disorder

19:50 , Rachel Sharp

From his evaluation of Cruz, Dr Scott said he diagnosed the mass shooter with antisocial personality disorder.

The forensic psychiatrist said that he came to three diagnostic conclusions: antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder and malingering.

An individual is diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder if they meet three or more criteria out of seven. Cruz meets six of the seven, he said.

The first criteria is “failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviours as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest”.

One example Dr Scott gave was that Cruz murdered 17 people and attempted to murder 17 people in the Valentine’s Day massacre.

Jurors also heard an audio clip from his interview where Cruz admitted that he broke into cars looking for weapons when he was around 16.

The second criteria is deceitfulness, such as lying or conning others.

Dr Scott said education records show he meets this criteria, with multiple teachers describing him as “deceitful”.

On the day of the massacre, he also “conned” the Uber driver that he was carrying a large musical instrument as he carried the AR-15 to the school.

The third criteria is where the individual is “impulsive or has difficulty planning ahead,” he said – pointing to examples of impulsiveness noted in his education records.

Criteria four is irritability and aggressiveness that leads to physical assault. Dr Scott detailed multiple instances of violence including where he attacked his adoptive mother Lynda Cruz.

Before Lynda’s death, he hit her on the face causing her to need a dental checkup appointment, he testified, referring to records.

The fifth criteria is a reckless disregard for yourself or others. An example of this was Cruz saying it was “thrilling” to shoot his gun in his backyard because he knew he was breaking the law.

The sixth criteria is consistent irresponsibility. Dr Scott said he does not think Cruz met this criteria.

The seventh and final criteria is a lack of remorse, he said. The psychiatrist said Cruz showed this criteria, giving examples where he made derogatory comments about his mother following a fight.

Dr Scott said that an individual with antisocial personality disorder must also show “conduct disorder” before the age of 15. To meet the diagnosis for conduct disorder the individual must only show one criteria.

Forensic psychiatrist says he has spent 500 hours on case

19:26 , Rachel Sharp

Dr Scott told the court that he has spent between 400 and 500 hours on the case since he was first contacted to lend his expertise on 11 November 2021.

The forensic psychiatrist said that he has evaluated and assessed thousands of records and also spent three days interviewing Nikolas Cruz.

Dr Scott said the records included: records relating to the day itself such as depositions, witness statements and court testimony; records about his adoption and delivery; education records; employment records; Cruz’s social media, cellphone videos and text messages; and footage of Cruz carrying out his attack and his actions in the aftermath.

He then carried out an in-person evaluation of Cruz over three full days 1, 2 and 3 March 2022.

The evaluation, which was all recorded and took place in the presence of Cruz’s lawyer, involved a comprehensive interview about his life and the day he carried out the massacre.

Psychiatrist next to testify

19:10 , Rachel Sharp

Psychiatrist Dr Charles L Scott is now on the witness stand.

He detailed his extensive career and experience, including his research into the connection between mental illness and violence.

He also has a history of assessing individuals who have claimed insanity or may have been faking symptoms such as hearing voices.

Cruz used hemorrhoids blood to write on wall, court hears

19:00 , Rachel Sharp

Nikolas Cruz used his own hemorrhoids blood to write on the walls of his prison cell, jurors heard.

Under cross-examination, the deputy confirmed Cruz had told him how he used his blood to make the jailhouse scrawlings.

A photo showed “666” written on the wall in blood.

The deputy confirmed that Cruz was not disciplined over the drawings but was placed on suicide watch.

Cruz’s disturbing drawings recreating massacre shown in court

18:51 , Rachel Sharp

Nikolas Cruz’s disturbing drawings were shown in court where he recreated the massacre and said he enjoyed causing “pain and death”.

Deputy Marque-Puche read out the notes and described what he could see in them.

In one of the harrowing images, Cruz appears to recreate the massacre at the high school he once attended.

The drawing shows what appears to be students sitting at desks in a school as a shooter opens fire.

Several of his notes also reveal an obsession with the devil, with Satanic symbols, drawings of a devil figure and repeated use of the number “666”.

He also tries to blame others for his murderous rampage, claiming the individual “sexually humiliated me on f***in Instagram” and claims that they are the “main f***ing reason why I shot up Stoneman Douglas”.

“The blood is not only on my hands but yours as well, your [sic] nothing but a worthless parasite,” he rants.

In another note, he writes “I just hope there is another mass shooting” as he appears to be advising someone to carry out such a massacre.

Cruz also appears to show his enjoyment for violence, writing that he likes “wasting everyone”.

“I like wasting eveyrone because it’s so much f***ing fun. I laugh. I laugh ... I love f***ing pain and death,” he writes.

Next witness testifies about jailhouse drawings

18:37 , Rachel Sharp

The next witness called to testify is Deputy Jean Marque-Puche, who worked in the Florida jail where Nikolas Cruz was being held.

The deputy described finding disturbing notes in Cruz’s cell and scrawled onto the walls.

He was carrying out an inspection in the cell when he noticed a red drawing on top of a commissary bag, he said.

Deputy Marque-Puche said that he asked Cruz how he had drawn on the paper and was told that he used a piece of red candy.

Following the discovery, he carried on searching the cell and found a trove of notes in his bag as well as a drawing on the wall next to the toilet which “looked like blood”.

The scrawling on the wall read “666”.

Court is back in session

18:20 , Rachel Sharp

The court is now back in session following the lunchtime recess.

Judge Elizabeth Scherer is currently ruling on motions about the admissibility of evidence and witness testimony.

What is antisocial personality disorder?

17:30 , Rachel Sharp

Antisocial personality disorder is a mental disorder where the individual consistently shows no regard for right and wrong and ignores the rights and feelings of others, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Often referred to as sociopathy, people with the disorder often break the law and engage in criminality, commit acts of violence, lie and abuse alcohol and drugs.

They show no guilt or remorse for their behaviour.

Early symptoms include behavioural problems such as aggression toward people and animals, stealing, destroying property and deceitfulness. Typically, adults with the disorder will have begun showing signs and symptoms of the disorder before the age of 15.

Legal teams argue over evidence to be presented in court

17:00 , Rachel Sharp

During the recess, the defence and prosecution disagreed about evidence to be presented in court in the state’s rebuttal.

Prosecutors are seeking to argue that Cruz is a sociopath who planned his attack and has shown no remorse for his actions.

Part of this argument involves jurors hearing what Cruz told a doctor about the 2018 massacre.

Cruz said that when he killed student Peter Wang, he “watched his head blow up like a water balloon”, the judge heard.

He also described seeing another victim “crawling” in the stairwell after being shot. “I shot her again,” he said, according to prosecutors.

The doctor recorded how Cruz admitted to killing staff member Chris Hixon because he gave him “a nasty look”.

“The security guard gave me a nasty look so I shot him in the head,” he said.

Hixon’s widow Debbi Hixon was seen wiping away tears as she listened in the gallery.

The defence is asking the judge not to allow the state to present this evidence.

Meanwhile, lead prosecutor Mike Satz argued that it is relevant to the state’s case that he has an anti-social personality disorder, as it shows that Cruz is “callous and has no feeling for others”.

Judge dismisses jurors for lunch

16:30 , Rachel Sharp

Judge Elizabeth Scherer has dismissed the jurors for lunch.

The jury had not yet returned from the morning break as the defence and prosecution continue to argue about evidence that can be presented in court.

At around 11.30am, the judge decided to tell jurors they could break for lunch as the housekeeping is likely to continue for at least another 15 minutes.

The afternoon session will resume at 1pm ET.

Court is on morning recess

16:00 , Rachel Sharp

The judge ordered an extended recess after Detective Nicholas Masters’s testimony, so that she could hear arguments for motions from the defence and prosecution.

The two legal teams are arguing over evidence that the state plans to admit in its rebuttal.

Jurors hear Cruz’s racist and Nazi online searches

15:42 , Rachel Sharp

Nikolas Cruz’s racist and Nazi online searches are being revealed in court.

Detective Nicholas Masters, an electronic data analyst with the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, searched Cruz’s online search history and internet activity from the lead-up to the 2018 massacre.

He read out several of Cruz’s searches where he searched for Nazi paraphernalia and information, used racist language and spoke of his hatred for Black people and searched for nude images of little girls.

On 17 September 2017, Cruz searched for “Nazi flag buy”. The next month, he carried out a search for Hitler’s birthday. He later searched for a swastika tattoo.

Much of Cruz’s online activity revealed his hatred of Black people and threats to kill.

“I can’t wait to kill Black people and rape a girl in 2020,” he wrote online.

“I will kill as many Black people as I can.”

Cruz also carried out searches for nude images of young girls prior to the massacre.

Among the searches were the phrases “little girls naked in shower” and “little girl p***ies”.

The gunman also wrote online about hating people and animals and claimed he killed 12 cats.

Under cross-examination, the defence pointed out that Cruz had also conducted online searches for mental disorders, group therapy sessions, autism and “lonely and loneliness”.

Detective Masters testified earlier at the trial, during the state’s case.

During that testimony, he read aloud several of Cruz’s other online searches for information and videos about mass shootings, including those at Virginia Tech, in Las Vegas and at Columbine High School.

He searched for how many rounds were fired in the massacres, the weapons used and information about the gunmen, the court heard.

Second witness testifies to seeing swastika on Cruz’s boots

15:21 , Rachel Sharp

Broward Sheriff’s Office Detective Clint Williams is the second witness to testify, joining over video call.

He visited the local hospital in the aftermath of the Valentine’s Day attack where he came into contact with Cruz.

He testified that he seized and photographed his boots.

The court was shown a photo of Cruz’s black military style boots which had a swastika carved into them.

He said the Nazi symbol was carved into the right boot, while there was nothing on the left boot.

Photo shown in court of Nikolas Cruz’s boots with a swastika carved into one of them (Law&Crime)
Photo shown in court of Nikolas Cruz’s boots with a swastika carved into one of them (Law&Crime)

Jurors shown gun magazine with swastika

15:11 , Rachel Sharp

The AR-15 used by Cruz to murder 17 students and staff members was brought into court and shown to the jurors.

Sgt Gloria Crespo testified that she photographed the gun on the third floor stairwell where Cruz left it following the massacre.

Jurors were shown a photo of the gun at the scene and a photo of a 30-capacity magazine, with a swastika scratched on the side.

The sergeant testified that there were two swastikas on the magazine – one on each side.

Nikolas Cruz’s gun magazine with a swastika carved into it (Law&Crime)
Nikolas Cruz’s gun magazine with a swastika carved into it (Law&Crime)

Tuesday’s first witness: Sgt Gloria Crespo

15:06 , Rachel Sharp

The first witness called to the stand in the state’s rebuttal is Sgt Gloria Crespo, a crime scene investigator on the case.

The officer testified that she found and photographed Nikolas Cruz’s AR-15, the Smith & Wesson M&P 15, in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in the immediate aftermath of the massacre.

Judge denies new defence motion for mistrial

14:50 , Rachel Sharp

Judge Elizabeth Scherer has denied a new defence motion for a mistrial.

Before the jury entered the courtroom on Tuesday morning, the defence requested a mistrial based on the judge’s ruling to allow the gun used in the massacre and Nikolas Cruz’s drawings of swastikas to be shown in court.

The judge immediately denied the request.

She said that the state is permitted to enter evidence in the rebuttal that was not previously admitted in the trial.

Nikolas Cruz, victims’ families enter courtroom

14:38 , Rachel Sharp

Nikolas Cruz, the defence team and the prosecution team entered the courtroom at around 9.30am ET ahead of the day’s proceedings.

Cruz, who turned 24 on Saturday, was seen speaking to David Wheeler at the defence table.

Several family members of the victims entered the courtroom and sat in the gallery minutes later.

The victims’ families have been present throughout the trial, being forced to listen to harrowing testimony about their loved ones’ final moments.

Trial resuming after judge refused defence’s request to stand down

14:25 , Rachel Sharp

Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer and the defence will meet in the courtroom once again after a two-week break, during which Nikolas Cruz’s attorneys called for the judge’s removal.

Cruz’s team filed a motion accusing her of being biased against the murderer and prejudicing the jurors who will decide on his sentencing.

In the court documents, the defence said that the judge’s comments toward them and to the jury were “the zenith of the cumulative disdain”.

Judge Scherer denied the motion calling it legally insufficient.

The motion came after the judge launched into a scathing admonishment of the defence after it suddenly rested its without warning.

Cruz’s legal team previously said it planned to call around 80 witnesses but only around 25 witnesses took the stand before the defence made the bombshell move to rest on 14 October.

“Honestly, I have never experienced a level of unprofessionalism in my career. It’s unbelievable,” Judge Scherer scolded Cruz’s attorneys in the courtroom.

Hurricane Ian not expected to disrupt trial

14:05 , Rachel Sharp

Hurricane Ian is not expected to disrupt the court proceedings, with Broward County Courthouse confirming it is continuing with normal operations for now.

Ian strengthened into a category 3 storm on Monday before making landfall in Cuba early on Tuesday.

Meteorologists have warned it could grow into a category 4 storm as it heads towards Florida.

Mandatory evacuations are underway in parts of the state amid warnings of flash flooding, strong winds, storm surge of up to 10 feet and possible isolated tornadoes.

Prosecutors to begin rebuttal

13:45 , Rachel Sharp

Prosecutors will begin the rebuttal case on Tuesday morning in the sentencing trial of Nikolas Cruz.

The state is expected to call witnesses to challenge Cruz’s defence that behavioural and psychological issues, including fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) caused by his biological mother drinking while pregnant, led him to carry out the 2018 mass shooting.

Instead, witnesses are expected to testify that Cruz has antisocial personality disorder and is fully responsible for his murderous rampage.

Someone with antisocial personality disorder commits “exploitive, delinquent and criminal behavior with no remorse,” according to the National Institutes of Health.

The rebuttal is expected to last two weeks, after which time the jury will deliberate as to whether to sentence him to death or to life in prison.

The trial will begin at 9.30am ET.