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Parkland Defendant's Lawyer: Don't Call Him a Killer

Lawyer for Nikolas Cruz wants to ban 'inflammatory' language in court
By Liz MacGahan,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 2, 2021 2:29 PM CDT
Defense: Don't Call Accused Parkland Shooter a 'Killer'
File photo of Parkland school shooting defendant Nikolas Cruz.   (Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel via AP, Pool, File)

(Newser) – Nikolas Cruz’s defense team wants prosecutors to be careful with language. Cruz, whose long-delayed trial could finally go forward this month, is accused of killing 17 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida on Feb. 14, 2018. His lead attorney, assistant public defender Melisa McNeill, asked that he be referred to as “the defendant” and the shooting be called “the incident,” the AP reports. The reasoning, McNeill said, is since the prosecution is asking for the death penalty, the standard for the verdict must be higher. She wants the language prosecutors to be neutral and not derogatory. People can call Cruz anything they want outside the courtroom, “however, the rules inside a courtroom are different.”

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Cruz himself used derogatory terms to describe himself, the prosecution argues. Nicole Chiappone said in a video he is “the next school shooter,” and referred to the shooting as “my massacre.” One parent of a child killed at the Parkland, Florida, school was irate, referring to Cruz as a “thing” in a tweet and saying he should be “treated the exact same way he brutally murdered my Alex.” McNeill says she wants to ban inflammatory terms and not “invite error into the record with these prejudicial references,” per the Daily News. “What else do you call an event where somebody goes into a school and kills 17 innocent people?” prosecutor Nicole Chiappone asked. (Read more Parkland school shooting stories.)

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