FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida — The Parkland building where a teenage gunman shot and killed 17 people will stand until at least next year, even though the jury deciding the gunman’s fate has already completed its tour of the crime scene ended.
The former freshman building at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School was originally preserved so that the blood-stained hallways and classrooms could be displayed to the jury who decided whether to sentence noted murderer Nikolas Cruz to life or death.
But earlier this year, another judge ordered the building be kept so that a second jury can visit it. The second jury will decide what will happen to the only other person charged in connection with the 2018 mass shooting, former Broward Sheriff’s Deputy Scot Peterson, the school employee charged with child neglect for taking cover when the shooting began rather than Cruz to try to find.
The decision to keep the scene has been the source of fierce debate in the four and a half years since the shooting, which also left 17 injured. Everyone agrees it needs to stop, but in the Cruz case, prosecutors wanted the building to remain intact so jurors could put the testimonies of witnesses and medical experts into context.
Cruz’s defense attorneys warned that the site visit would emotionally overwhelm the jury and jeopardize the defendant’s right to a fair trial.
In the Peterson case, the defense wants jurors to tour the scene. Only then, said attorney Mark Eiglarsh, can the jury understand why Peterson thought the shooting might have come from somewhere other than the inside of the freshman building.
Prosecutors in the Peterson case did not oppose Eiglarsh’s motion to preserve the scene, but they want the jury to also enter the 1200 building.
Broward Circuit Judge Martin Fein, who is presiding over the Peterson case, has not commented on the extent of the upcoming jury visit. Jury selection is expected to begin in early February.
In the meantime, the building remains in place, a constant reminder to the Stoneman Douglas and Parkland communities of the terror of 2018.
Demolition cannot begin until the work of the next jury is completed. The Broward school district has yet to hire someone to bring the building down, as no one can pinpoint a reliable demolition date. At a recent school board workshop, Deputy Superintendent of Operations Judith Marte said the district will try to have a salesperson “to ensure that the building is demolished as soon as possible” once courts no longer determine it is needed as evidence in criminal trials. .
(Staff writer Scott Travis contributed to this report.)