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Attorneys move closer to seating jury in Parkland shooter's sentencing trial

Assistant Public Defenders Nawal Bashimam, left, and Tamara Curtis adjust the shirt collar of...
Assistant Public Defenders Nawal Bashimam, left, and Tamara Curtis adjust the shirt collar of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz prior to the start of the day's jury selection in the penalty phase of Cruz's trial at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Thursday, June 23, 2022. (Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel via AP, Pool)(AP)
Published: Jun. 23, 2022 at 4:01 PM EDT
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With less that two weeks before opening statements are expected to begin in the sentencing trial for Nikolas Cruz, the quest to find a fair and impartial jury pushed ahead Thursday.

As prosecutors and defense attorneys challenged potential jurors with a series of stringent questions, lead prosecutor Mike Satz tried to find out if they harbor any biases about law enforcement or firearms.

"How long have you owned your AK?" Satz asked one potential juror.

"Probably over a year," the potential juror answered.

"Have you every had an unpleasant experience with a law enforcement officer?" Satz asked.

Defense attorneys dug even deeper, seeking the jury's views on violent video games and animal abuse.

Sentence mitigation specialist Kate O'Shea (right), a member of the defense team, speaks with...
Sentence mitigation specialist Kate O'Shea (right), a member of the defense team, speaks with Assistant Public Defender Nawal Bashimam during jury selection in the penalty phase of the trial of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz, Thursday, June 23, 2022, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

"Is it OK for a 12-, 13- or 14-year-old child to play a first-person shooter game?" defense attorney Nawal Bashimam asked.

"I think it's dependent on the individual child. Are they starting to reenact some of those things?" a potential juror answered.

Bashimam also sent a distinct message to prospective jurors that the violent images they'll be viewing during the trial will be graphic.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz speaks with capital defense attorney...
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz speaks with capital defense attorney Casey Secor at the defense table during a break in jury selection in the penalty phase of Cruz's trial, Thursday, June 23, 2022, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

"You will see photos of children and educators killed right in the school," she said. "You will also see photos of murder victims with bullet wounds, blood and other wounds that caused their death."

Cruz, 23, pleaded guilty to killing 14 students and three staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018. This trial is all about determining his punishment. It will be up to jurors to decide if he should face the death penalty or life in prison without parole.

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