Expert wonders if school shooter’s mother drank heavily

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Prosecutors in the trial of Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz began their rebuttal of defense arguments on Tuesday by questioning whether his birth mother drank as much during the pregnancy as some witnesses claimed. describe.

They also showed his sometimes racist and misogynistic behavior online before he massacred 17 people four years ago at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, his online searches for child pornography and the violent writings and drawings found in his cell. from prison last spring.

Prosecution expert Dr. Charles Scott, a forensic psychiatrist at the University of California, Davis, said that while defense experts and witnesses testified that Cruz’s biological mother, Brenda Woodard, had drunk fortified wine and malt liquor while pregnant, he said there was little supporting evidence. only in his medical file.

Not only do these records show that she denied drinking after five weeks of pregnancy, but there is nothing in Woodard’s medical exams or Cruz’s infant medical records to tell her that she was lying.

The recordings “raised questions for me about the reality of alcohol (abuse),” Scott said. Woodard passed away last year.

Prosecutors used Scott’s testimony to show the jury swastikas drawn on Cruz’s gun magazine and boots, his online racism and misogyny, and his online searches for child pornography.

They say these details support Scott’s diagnosis that Cruz’s murder by 14 students and three staff members in high school was motivated by an antisocial personality disorder – commonly referred to as a sociopath. Cruz, 24 years old, pleaded guilty last October to February 14, 2018, murders — the trial must only decide whether he is sentenced to death or to life without the possibility of parole.

Scott testified that Cruz is able to control his behavior but chooses not to because he has no respect for others, the main trait of antisocial personality disorder. He also showed video clips from his three days of interviews with Cruz from last March. While defense experts said Cruz had a slightly below average IQ, Cruz engaged Scott in a high-level discussion about the Russian invasion of Ukraine that had begun days earlier. Cruz discussed with clarity the goals and history of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Before Scott took the stand, prosecutors used Broward County Sheriff’s investigators and a jail guard to introduce the swastikas that were drawn on the magazine found in Scott’s AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle. Cruz and his use of anti-black and anti-women slurs online. . Five of Cruz’s 12 jurors are women and seven identify as racial minorities. For Cruz to be sentenced to death, a unanimous vote is needed.

Detective Nick Masters, an online investigator, said Cruz was researching how to buy a Nazi flag, Adolf Hitler’s birthday information, and how to get a swastika tattoo. Cruz wrote “the Nazi party will rise again”. He researched and commented using a racial slur directed at black people. He wrote that he hit his widowed mother and called her an insult to women. He wrote that “women are less important than a dog”.

Masters showed several graphic searches that Cruz did for child pornography. He also made comments praising animal abuse, saying he had killed 12 cats and writing: ‘I’m happy when animals die. It makes me happy.”

Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer only allowed prosecutors to present a fraction of Cruz’s online research and comments, saying more would be grossly prejudicial. No one is claiming that Cruz specifically targeted girls or minorities. Eight of his victims were girls and four were from racial minorities.

During cross-examination, Cruz’s attorney, Nawal Bashimam, asked Masters about other research Cruz did, such as how to find a girlfriend, how to deal with loneliness, how to find treatment for mental health, and “How can I help myself with these bad feelings?” Masters said he had seen a few.

Prosecutors also showed writings and drawings by prison guard Jean Joel Marque-Pucheu found in Cruz’s cell in May where Cruz fantasized about both the murder of a Stoneman Douglas rival and future school massacres.

They showed writings where Cruz praised Satan and photos of a drawing he had made in his cell with his own blood of a pentagram and the number 666, which some believe to be the sign of the Antichrist.

During their case, Cruz’s attorneys attempted to show how her late mother’s heavy drinking during pregnancy set Cruz on a path to erratic, bizarre, and often violent behavior that culminated in the shooting. . They also attempted to show that his adoptive mother, Lynda Cruz, had become overwhelmed after the death of her husband when Cruz was 5 years old. She died less than three months before the shooting.

Due to the approach of Hurricane Ian in Florida, which is expected to bring heavy rain to Fort Lauderdale over the next two days, the trial will resume Monday with Scott still on the witness stand.

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An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that six of Cruz’s victims were girls, not eight.

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