- Nikolas Cruz stands accused of murdering 17 people in a 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Florida.
- Cruz’s lawyers ask the judge in the case to prohibit prosecutors and witnesses from calling Cruz derogatory names.
- Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer said Cruz cannot be called an “animal” or “that thing”, but he can be called a “killer”.
Nikolas Cruz, who stands accused of murdering 17 people in the 2018 Parkland, Florida school shooting, cannot be referred to as an “animal” or “that thing” at trial, a judge ruled on Friday.
However, Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer denied Cruz’s lawyer’s claims that Cruz should not be referred to by any name they deem derogatory.
Cruz, 22, is accused of killing 17 people on February 14, 2018, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The trial date has not yet been set.
Assistant public defender Melisa McNeill, who represents Cruz, argued this week that he should not be referred to by any derogatory terms, including “killer”, “animal”, or “that thing”, NBC Miami reported. According to CBS Miami, some of the victims’ parents have referred to Cruz by such names in interviews.
“Can those terms be used outside the courtroom? Yes. Everyone has a First Amendment right to refer to Mr. Cruz in any manner they see fit,” McNeill said, according to NBC Miami. “However, the rules inside a courtroom are different.”
McNeill said that Cruz should only be referred to by his name or as “the defendant” in the trial, NBC Miami reported. McNeill also said the school shooting should only be referred to with neutral terms, such as “the incident”, “the tragedy,” or “mass shooting.” Terms like “the massacre” or “the schoolhouse slaughter” should be avoided because they are “inflammatory,” NBC Miami reported McNeill said.
Prosecutor Nicole Chiappone called McNeill’s requests “insulting” and said there are videos of Cruz prior to the shooting calling himself “the next school shooter” and saying, “this is the day of my massacre.”
“Referring to this as ‘an incident’ or ‘a tragedy’ is insulting. This is far more,” Chiappone said, according to NBC Miami.
While Judge Scherer agreed that Cruz should not be called an “animal” or “that thing”, she said it would be impossible to list all of the terms Cruz could not be called, WPTV reported. She also denied other portions of McNeill’s request.
“Some words and terms the Defendant requests not to be used, such as ‘school shooter,’ ‘murderer,’ or ‘killer,’ in and of themselves are not derogatory,” Scherer wrote, according to CBS Miami. “They are normal words that may be used to describe particular facts.”
Scherer also said the shooting may be referred to as a “massacre” since it is not an inherently derogatory term, CBS Miami said.
“A trial is not the time for the attorneys to editorialize or give their opinions of a defendant,” CBS Miami reported Scherer said. “The trial attorneys shall present the evidence, and the jury shall make their determinations based on the evidence presented.”