Nikolas Cruz defence lawyer investigated 


A member of Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz’s defence team is being investigated by the Florida bar association after being accused of flashing her middle finger at cameras in court before his sentencing.

The inquiry into Tamara Curtis’s behaviour in court was confirmed to The Independent by Florida bar spokesperson Jennifer Krell Davis on Friday.

It follows a jarring scene at a pre-sentencing hearing weeks ago that was decried by parents of the 17 victims killed at Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018.

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In a 39-second clip making the rounds on Twitter this week, Ms Curtis points out at the camera set up in the courtroom, bringing it to the attention of Cruz and another member of the defence team. Ms Curtis’ colleague then appears to share a laugh with her before flashing her middle finger, in what many viewers took as a suggestion for Ms Curtis to do the same.

The trio takes turns looking at the camera before Ms Curtis gives a dismissive wave, appearing to suggest for the person controlling it to stop zooming in on the defence table. She then appeared to raise her middle finger and rub it against her cheek before bursting out a laugh that was echoed by the convicted Parkland shooter.

Ms Davis said she could not confirm nor deny whether the exchange seen in the video had anything to do with the bar association investigation.

Manuel Oliver, who lost his son in the massacre, also hit out at the defence, flipping his own middle finger and saying “you need to learn how to flip a middle finger.” Michael Schulman, the father of slain teacher Scott Beigel, also told the defence that they had a right to defend Cruz, but had “no right to demean [the victims.]”

Tamara Curtis “flipping the bird” at a pre-trial hearing

Tamara Curtis “flipping the bird” at a pre-trial hearing

At one point during the sentencing, the defence asked Broward County Judge Elizabeth Scherer to interfere with the victim impact testimonies heard in court, arguing that the rhetoric could initiate violence. Ms Scherer, who sentenced Cruz to 34 consecutive life terms, dismissed the complaints.

Florida Bar spokesperson Jessica Krell Davis told The Independent that the complaint against Ms Curtis and other documents in the investigation have not been made public yet. Ms Davis said she could not speculate when asked whether there are plans to investigate any other members of Cruz’s defence team.

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On Wednesday, Mr Schulman spoke of the moment captured on video weeks before.

“Zealous representation of a confessed murderer does not mean flipping the bird when you think the cameras aren’t on you,” Mr Schulman said. “You should be embarrassed.”

The mother of Nicholas Dworet, 17, Annika Dworet, said that “one of the most disgusting and unprofessional actions that occurred in this courtroom was the defence team holding, touching, and giggling with this cold-blooded murderer”.

Tamara Curtis laughs with convicted Parkland killer Nikolas Cruz at a pre-trial hearing

Tamara Curtis laughs with convicted Parkland killer Nikolas Cruz at a pre-trial hearing

(Law&Crime )
The defence team attempted to argue that they were being “personally attacked” by the families during the first day of sentencing on Tuesday.

Public defender Gordon Weekes asked the judge to intervene in the impact statements in light of the attack on Nancy Pelosi’s husband, Paul Pelosi. Mr Weekes claimed the children of the defence team had been referenced and that “nobody had gone through what [the defence] had to go through.”

Judge Scherer shut down Mr Weeke’s remarks, saying that the victims’ families had maintained composure and made acceptable comments for the most part.

Chief Assistant Public Defender David Wheeler later seconded those claims, saying family members of the victims had brought up the defence’s children, while Judge Scherer said she had not registered those remarks and that she did not know what he was talking about.

“Judge, I can assure you that if they were talking about your children, you would definitely notice it,” Mr Wheeler pushed.

Judge Scherer then excused Mr Wheeler from the defence table, saying that he had been out of line and the defence’s behaviour was inappropriate and unprofessional.

“To try to threaten my children and bring up my children is inappropriate, go to the back of the room now. That just violated about every rule of professional responsibility,” Scherer also told Mr Weekes. “Go sit down. We are moving on with the sentencing.”

Manuel Oliver flips the finger at the defence

Manuel Oliver flips the finger at the defence

The following day, Mr Guttenberg and his wife called for Mr Weekes’ resignation.

“Yesterday, the elected public defender said that nobody had to endure what this defence has endured,” Jennifer Guttenberg, the mother of Jaime Guttenberg, said on Wednesday. “And as a reminder, Mr Weekes, and the rest of the defence attorneys, your client murdered our loved ones in cold blood. Hunted them down, shot them over and over until he knew he accomplished his goal.”

“To suggest for one second that we would be the kind of people or anyone back there would be the kinds of people who would incite violence, you all should be ashamed of yourselves,” Mr Guttenberg continued.

Victim Joaquin Oliver’s sister, Andrea Ghersi, refused to address Cruz during his victim impact statement, but lashed out at the defence after the events on Tuesday.

“I will not allow any of you to make us out to be the kind of people that resort to any kind of threats, especially threats toward children,” Ms Ghersi said.

She continued: “‘No one in this courtroom has had to go through what we have had to go through,’ a statement by Gordon Weekes. What exactly have you had to go through? Did you have to sit here for the past few months and listen from medical experts how many shots your loved one received?”

Judge Elizabeth Scherer orders Chief Assistant Public Defender David Wheeler to sit in the back of the courtroom

Judge Elizabeth Scherer orders Chief Assistant Public Defender David Wheeler to sit in the back of the courtroom

(© South Florida Sun Sentinel 2022)
“How much they suffered while being hunted down by their murderer. Are you that out of touch?”

Cruz was formally sentenced to life in prison for the mass murder of 17 students and staff members at the end of two days of heartbreaking impact statements from victims and their families outraged that their loved ones’ killer has avoided the death penalty for his crimes.

The judge praised the loved ones of victims and survivors for supporting each other throughout their unimaginable loss, and thanked them for their composure during the emotional four months of trial.

Cruz was sentenced to 17 life sentences without the possibility of parole, and 17 other life sentences with the possibility of parole after 20 years served.

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