The Florida Supreme Court has delivered a public reprimand to Judge Elizabeth Scherer, who presided over the penalty trial of Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz.
Florida Supreme Court Unanimously Reprimands Judge Elizabeth Scherer
The reprimand comes after the Florida Supreme Court found evidence of bias toward the prosecution during the high-profile case. The unanimous decision by the Florida Supreme Court, which was based on the recommendation of the Judicial Qualifications Commission, cited “inappropriate behavior” displayed by Judge Scherer during the proceedings. One of the incidents that drew criticism from the commission was when Judge Scherer stepped down from the bench to embrace several prosecutors at the Florida Supreme Court immediately after sentencing Cruz to life in prison. While she defended her actions by stating that she had also offered hugs to Cruz’s defense lawyers, the Florida Supreme Court deemed her actions as emotional responses that compromised her judgment during the lengthy and unique trial. The Parkland shooting, which took place on February 14, 2018, claimed the lives of 17 individuals at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, making it one of the deadliest mass school shootings in U.S. history.
Florida Supreme Court Adopts Commission’s Findings
During the six-month penalty trial to determine whether Cruz would receive the death penalty, Judge Scherer’s interactions with defense lawyers were frequently contentious and aired on live television. The jury’s inability to reach a unanimous decision for the death penalty resulted in Scherer sentencing the convicted murderer to life in prison in November. The commission also found fault with the judge at the Florida Supreme Court for “unduly chastising” members of the defense team and making unfounded accusations against one of Cruz’s attorneys. As a result of her conduct during the Cruz trial at the Florida Supreme Court, Scherer was disqualified from handling a death-row inmate’s case in April at the request of the defense attorney.