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Defense seeks to dismiss some evidence in Parkland school gunman's sentencing trial

Nikolas Cruz's attorneys want to disallow items etched with swastikas
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz fixes his collar as he speaks with Assistant Public Defender Melisa McNeill during jury selection in the penalty phase of his trial at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale on Tuesday, June 28, 2022.
Posted at 6:26 PM, Jun 28, 2022

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The sentencing trial for the convicted Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz is near, and his defense is hoping to havecertain pieces of evidence dismissed from the case altogether.

The debate over social media posts and swastikas became a key point of contention between prosecutors and the defense Tuesday, even leading to a shouting match among attorneys.

The defense filed a series of motions asking the judge to prevent the state from presenting evidence related to social media posts and swastikas that Cruz etched on the AR-15 and boots he used and wore when he gunned down 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018.

Read the defense team's filing:

The defense called that evidence inflammatory, prejudicial and irrelevant to the case. In the meantime, 50 prospective jurors made their way back to the courtroom yet again. This time the court wanted to see if they know anyone of the witnesses in the case.

The jury selection process has been slow, taking about three months.

Capital defense attorney Casey Secor, June 28, 2022

However, legal experts said it's essential to handle this process with care.

"The jury selection process what we call voir dire is not the sexist part of the trial, but it's the one of the most important because of the fact that it determines whether or not the defendant is going to be judged by a jury of their peers," Melba Pearson, director of policy and programs at Florida International University's Green School of International and Public Affairs, said. "It also makes sure that a variety of voices are being heard with regards to what the outcome of this case should be."

A jury of 12 will be asked to decide whether the 23-year-old should spend the rest of his life in prison, without the possibility of parole, or be put to death for his crimes on Feb. 14, 2018.

The trial is set to begin next week, but it could be pushed back again.

Judge Elizabeth Scherer said last week that opening statements in the trial would begin July 6.

This story was originally published by WPTV in West Palm Beach, Florida.