TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — The judge who oversaw the sentencing of the Parkland massacre gunman was removed from another death penalty murder case Thursday by the Florida Supreme Court, which agreed she showed unfair sympathy for prosecutors in the Parkland school shooting case.
The court removed Judge Elizabeth Scherer from overseeing any post-conviction proceedings for Randy Tundidor, who was sentenced to death for the 2019 murder of his Broward County landlord and is appealing his case.
Justices cited Scherer’s chummy interactions with prosecutors who were seeking the death penalty against shooter Nikolas Cruz during sentencing.
“Immediately after sentencing Cruz, Judge Scherer left the bench and, while still in her judicial robe, exchanged hugs with the victims’ families and members of the prosecution team,” the justices’ said in their unanimous decision.
Judges are supposed to remain neutral during trials and sentencing.
One of the prosecutors in Tundidor’s case was also on the team that prosecuted Cruz.
Scherer had no choice but to sentence Cruz to life in prison with no parole after the jury couldn’t reach a legally-required unanimous decision on recommending the death penalty.
The state Legislature is close to passing a bill that would allow death penalty when at least 8 of 12 jurors recommend it. The measure was filed as a response to the Parkland case. Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis supports the bill.
The Supreme Court said Scherer also engaged in heated exchanges with Cruz’s lawyers, accused one of threatening her children, and told two members to “go sit down.”