Judge’s hugs after Parkland school shooter sentencing become controversial
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – When the judge hugged prosecutors after the Parkland school shooter’s sentencing hearing ended Wednesday, some lawyers who followed the case closely were worried about the fallout.
Broward County District Judge Elizabeth Scherer presided over the case while there were live cameras in the courtroom. There are videos of the sudden boundaries and heated exchanges she has had with the public defense team for years.
The hugs followed two days of no-holds-barred testimony that allowed the grieving families of the victims to vent — despite Weeks’ objections. Attorney David Weinstein, a partner with Jones Walker Waechter in Miami, said Scherer was reacting to an emotional day.
“Public defenders can now argue, based on the hugs that were observed by the prosecution team, that she may no longer be impartial,” said Weinstein, who has experience as a district and federal prosecutor.
The grieving families of the 2018 Valentine’s Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School did not stop. There were tears, insults and slander. Some targeted Nikolas Cruz and others also attacked the defense team.
Related Story: The defense attorneys’ association disapproves of the judge’s handling of the Parkland school shooter’s defense
Scherer’s interaction with the defense culminated in a tense exchange with Public Defender Gordon Weeks that resulted in her being ordered to “Go sit down!” The Florida Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys asked Chief Judge Jack Tuter to handle his treatment.
Related Story: The video shows a heated exchange between the judge, the defender of the Parkland shooter
After the hearing ended, Scherer also hugged the families of the victims, including Fred and Jennifer Guttenberg, the parents of 14-year-old Jaime Guttenberg, who Cruz shot in the back as she ran away from him on the third floor of the 1200 school building.
Fred Guttenberg called for Weeks’ resignation over his court comments.
Related story: Fred Guttenberg calls for resignation of public defender over comments during hearing
Attorney David Bogenschutz, of J. David Bogenschutz & Associates in Fort Lauderdale agreed with Weinstein and said that after a case is over, people have a tendency to be disappointed.
“The optics of it are not really helpful,” Bogenschutz said, adding, “There are some people who would be a little concerned about that … I think the defense attorneys in this county will deal with that.”
Related Story: Florida Bar Investigates Parkland School Shooter’s Assistant Public Defender
Read the letter
> Here’s what happened Day 1 of the sentencing hearing
> Here’s what happened Day 2 of the sentencing hearing
Victim impact statement without limitations
The family of murder victim Christopher Hixon
Ines Maria Hixon
Parents of murder victim Scott Biegel
Linda Biegel Schulman
Michael Schulman (Caution: Explosive)
Mother of murder victim Helena Ramsay
Family and girlfriend of murder victim Joaquin Oliver
Patricia Padauy Oliver
Mother of murder victim Nicholas Dworet
Sister of murder victim Alaina Joann Petty
Father of murder victim Alexander Schachter
Parents of murder victim Jaime Guttenberg
Father and brother of murder victim Gina Montalto
Anthony Montalto III
Anthony Montalto II
The family of murder victim Alyssa Alhadeff
Parents: Lori and Ilan Alhadeff
Grandmother: Theresa Robinovitz
Grandfather: David Robinovitz
Uncle: David Alhadeff
Grandmother: Representative reads Vicky Alhadeff’s statement
Representatives read statements from Carmen Schentrup’s parents
Mother: April Scentrup
Father: Philip Schentrup
Injured survivors and their families
Samantha Fuentes was injured in the classroom where Helena Ramsay and Nicholas Dworet died
Stacey Lippel was injured near where her colleague Scott Beigel was killed
Parents of wounded survivor Benjamin Wikander: Bree and Eric Wikander
Mother of Injured Survivor Samantha Speaker: Ellyn Mayor
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