The Florida State Bar Association is probing Tamara Curtis, the lawyer for Parkland massacre killer Nikolas Cruz, for allegedly flashing her middle finger to cameras during the sentencing phase of the lengthy trial.
Curtis appeared to flip off the cameras by scratching her cheek with a blatant middle finger during a July 12 court proceeding. She and Cruz, who pleaded guilty to murdering 17 people on Valentine's Day in 2018, can be seen laughing about it in the footage.
Family members of those killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School condemned the assistant public defender's behavior. They said Cruz's defense team failed to show them minimal humanity over the course of his sentencing trial.
Parents Condemn the Defense Team
Fred Guttenberg, the father of 14-year-old victim Jamie Guttenberg, had said that Curtis seemed frustrated by how Judge Elizabeth Scherer was responding to her courtroom arguments. He tweeted that the moment was "disgusting, immature and reprehensible".
Guttenberg said it reminded him that the defense team had long ago lost any humanity for the victims of this crime. The heartbroken father told reporters that he will never, ever, ever forgive that moment.
Another parent Annika Dworet reprimanded the defense for "holding, touching and giggling with the cold-blooded murderer. She described the behaviour as "disgusting" and "unprofessional".
Manuel Oliver, father of a 17-year-old victim, also mentioned the incident in a statement and raised his own middle finger to the defense team.
Complaints against Judge Scherer
The middle-finger was not missed by Judge Scherer either and there was a heated exchange about it. This was triggered when Cruz's attorney's complained that the Parkland families were targeting them in their statements. "I did my job, and every member of this team did our job, and we should not be personally attacked for that," Melisa McNeil, Cruz's chief public defender said.
But Judge Scherer put her foot down. "When thee people are upset about specific things that have gone on from the table, like 'shooting the middle finger up at this court', and laughing, and joking – Mrs McNeil, be quiet – when these people have sat in this courtroom and watched this behaviour from that table and they want to say that they're not happy about it, what is the problem?"
Scherer is also being criticized for her handling of the sentencing proceedings. The president of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, sent a letter to Chief Judge Jack Tuter of the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit on Thursday alleging that "Scherer's hostility reveals a temperament ill-suited to the criminal bench" following her contentious exchanges with defense attorneys during the sentencing proceedings.
The letter requests to ensure that Scherer is not in a position to prejudice any other criminal cases. Moreover, she was photographed hugging prosecutors and some of the victim's families after the sentence hearing.