Parkland shooter criminal trial, psychologist said Nikolas Cruz suffered fetal alcohol damage


Parkland shooter criminal trial, psychologist said Nikolas Cruz suffered fetal alcohol damage

Parkland shooter criminal trial, psychologist said Nikolas Cruz suffered fetal alcohol damage


FORT LAUDERDALEFORT LAUDERDALE – After a week-long break, the jury in the criminal trial of Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz returned to work on Monday.

It’s been nearly a year since Cruz pleaded guilty to the murder of 17 students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on February 14, 2018. His trial only serves to decide whether he will be sentenced to death or life without parole.

During Monday morning’s trial, attorneys debated what a neuropsychologist could tell the jury about his findings about Cruz.

Defense attorneys are trying to convince at least one juror that Cruz was “damaged” by his birth mother’s drug and alcohol use, and that instead of the death penalty, he should be sentenced to life in prison, with no chance of parole. For the jury of seven men and five women to impose a death sentence, the vote must be unanimous.

Paul Connor, a neuropsychologist in the Seattle area, said medical records and testimony from previous witnesses show that Brenda Woodard drank and used cocaine for much of her pregnancy before Cruz’s birth in 1998. Woodard, a prostitute in Fort Lauderdale, immediately afterward gave up the baby to his adoptive parents, Lynda and Roger Cruz. Woodard died last year.

Connor, who testified through Zoom, told jurors that people with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder exhibit problems with motor skills, impulse control, socializing and paying attention at a young age — problems Cruz showed from previous defense testimony.

Cruz’s kindergarten teachers testified that he couldn’t use utensils or run without falling. He was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder as a young child and teachers testified that he was extremely anxious and had trouble making friends. He would regularly have outbursts in class and at home, showing school records and testimonials. In high school, he made threats.

Connor said he measured Cruz’s IQ at 83, which he says matches the slightly below-average intelligence that many people with fetal alcohol problems often score.

Chief Prosecutor Mike Satz completed his primary case last month. He played security videos of the shooting and showed the gun Cruz was using. Teachers and students testified that they saw others die. He showed graphic autopsy and crime scene photos and took jurors into the gated building, which is still bloodied and bullet-ridden. Parents and spouses gave tearful and angry statements about their loss.

In an effort to counter that, assistant attorney Melisa McNeill and her team have turned Cruz’s history into the center of their case, hoping that at least one juror will vote for life.

After the defense has completed its case in the coming weeks, the prosecution will present a rebuttal case before the jury’s deliberations begin.


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