Parkland massacre sentencing trial-Autism defense scrapped

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21 Aug 2022, 11:11 am

As his defense launches, Parkland shooter still fixated on blood, murder, reveng

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Cruz’s lawyers have spent years now working on his defense, and have been publicly mum about it. But in recent days and weeks, planks of the defense have collapsed one by one.

The defense team recently abandoned a “brain mapping” analysis — quantitative electroencephalogram — that was based on images of Cruz’s brain. And this week in court, the killer’s lawyers revealed they’re dropping even more of the disability arguments. Though Cruz was thought by some people, including his mother, to have autism, the defense won’t make that assertion.

“It’s not our position that Nikolas has autism spectrum disorder,” defense attorney Casey Secor said in court Thursday.

Another analysis the defense worked on, based on the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales for evaluating intellectual and developmental disorders, looked at Cruz’s behavior as a child, using testimony from a former family friend, Finai Browd. But the analysis by Dr. Natalie Novick Brown was attacked in court filings by the prosecution.

“We are no longer using those,” Secor announced in court Thursday, surprising prosecutors.

Was it alcohol that damaged the shooter? The defense still plans to argue that Cruz’s biological mother, the late Brenda Woodard, drank alcohol while she was pregnant with him, and that he was born with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.

In hearings without the jury present, Secor said Thursday that the team would argue that abnormal behaviors that some took for autism were instead evidence of the alcohol exposure. Jurors might be swayed to save Cruz’s life, he said, if they believe he has a neurodevelopmental disorder.

“A person could say, ‘Well, someone who commits 17 murders and does not have a disorder, I’m probably gonna give them the death penalty, but if I think they have a developmental disorder, I might lean towards life without parole,’” Secor said, in a court debate over witness testimony.

Prosecutor Jeff Marcus said the team will counter that Cruz has no developmental disorder, but rather anti-social personality disorder and borderline personality disorder.


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Professionally Identified and joined WP August 26, 2013
DSM 5: Autism Spectrum Disorder, DSM IV: Aspergers Moderate Severity

“My autism is not a superpower. It also isn’t some kind of god-forsaken, endless fountain of suffering inflicted on my family. It’s just part of who I am as a person”. - Sara Luterman