A Florida commission that oversees the conduct of the state’s judges recommended a formal reprimand for the judge who oversaw the death penalty trial of the Parkland school shooter, writing her conduct at times made it appear she favored the prosecution.
Judge Elizabeth Scherer did not contest the findings and recommendations of the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission and agreed to a reprimand, according to a stipulation filed with the state Supreme Court. The court has the final say about whether to reprimand the judge, Alexander Williams, general counsel for the commission, told CNN.
Tensions between Scherer and public defenders for the gunman were apparent throughout last year’s trial, with several fiery confrontations between her and members of the defense team. A notice of formal charges notes Scherer scolded and admonished the defense team and, after sentencing the shooter to life in prison without parole, hugged prosecutors and members of the victims’ families.
Scherer recognized “her conduct created the perception of a bias against one party,” the commission’s report said, adding that even the “appearance of bias tarnishes public confidence in the fairness and impartiality of the judiciary.”
The jury was tasked with deciding whether the shooter, Nikolas Cruz, should be sentenced to death for the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February 2018, in which 17 people were killed and 17 others injured. But the jury declined to unanimously recommend the death penalty, resulting in a life sentence, angering many of the victims’ families.
Scherer announced in May that she would resign her position as Circuit Judge for the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit, effective June 30. Her resignation, the commission wrote in its report, was not a result of the investigation.