Parkland school shooting report must be released to public, judge rules

By South Florida Sun Sentinel

The public has a right to see the Broward school district’s report about Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz, a judge ruled Friday.

Cruz’s attorneys argued unsuccessfully in court that the report, based on a consultant’s review of Cruz’s educational records, would hinder his right to a fair trial.

“It’s a whitewash,” said David Frankel, one of the defense attorneys on the case, told the judge in court. He said the report was commissioned by the school district to absolve it of responsibility for how it handled Cruz’s complex psychological problems.

Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer ruled that nothing in the report would affect Cruz’s right to a fair trial. She noted that the report is heavily blacked out _ about 27 pages that deal with the specific details of Cruz’s school records are concealed at the school district’s request.

Attorneys for the school district said they were waiting to see if the Broward Public Defender’s Office appeals the ruling before releasing the report. The defense team immediately said it does not plan to appeal.

Handcuffed, shackled and wearing red “maximum security inmate” jail scrubs, Cruz sat and stared into his lap during the hearing. He did not speak publicly but chatted briefly with his attorneys.

Security in the courtroom was tight, with about a dozen armed Broward sheriff’s deputies fanned out around the room.

The defense team had asked the judge handling his criminal case to block release of the report, saying it would make it difficult to find an impartial jury if the case goes to trial on charges he murdered 17 people and wounded 17 others on Feb. 14.

The Broward School Board commissioned the review, after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

The board hired a consultant, Collaborative Educational Network of Tallahassee, to examine how district officials handled his education and the support services provided to him by the district. The report is expected to identify any problems and recommend improvements the school district should make.

The school district previously asked a civil court judge, Patti Englander Henning, to rule on whether the report should be made public.

The district recommended that portions of the report should be blacked out to comply with Cruz’s privacy rights under federal and state laws that make some educational and medical records exempt from disclosure.

The civil court judge ruled last week that the altered report should be released, but her order was placed on hold until the criminal trial judge heard arguments from the defense team.

Attorneys for the South Florida Sun Sentinel and other media outlets filed court documents arguing the report is a taxpayer-funded public record that should not be hidden from view. The judge agreed.

This article provided by NewsEdge.