A Broward judge this week refused to dismiss three defendants from the last remaining civil case over the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, increasing the prospect of a third jury trial connected with the tragedy.
Circuit Judge Carol Lisa Phillips said plaintiffs have enough legal reason to accuse former Broward Sheriff’s Deputy Scot Peterson and former campus monitors Andrew Medina and David Taylor of failing to perform their duties to protect the student body while gunman Nikolas Cruz methodically went through the school executing students and teachers on Feb. 14, 2018.
It will be up to a jury to decide if they are civilly liable.
Cruz pleaded guilty to 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder. He was tried in 2022 to determine his punishment, and a jury failed to reach unanimous agreement that he deserved the death penalty. He is serving a life sentence. For his protection, the Florida Department of Corrections has not disclosed where he is being held.
Peterson, 60, was tried last year on charges of child neglect, an unusual application of a law that makes it a felony for a caregiver to allow harm to come to a child. A jury found him not guilty, and a relieved Peterson said he had been vindicated.
But a civil trial does not carry the same burden of proof as a criminal case, and Peterson likely would be required to testify if the civil case does go to trial. Lawyers for the families of the victims will be able to question him, as well as Medina and Taylor, about their decisions during the massacre.
Peterson has said in interviews and through his lawyer that he was outside the school’s 1200 building, where all the shooting took place, but he did not know where the shots were coming from. He said he took cover outside a nearby building.
Medina and Taylor allegedly failed to call a “code red” that would have alerted teachers to lock the building down. Taylor was hiding in a second-story closet inside the 1200 building during the shooting. No one was harmed on the second floor.
No trial date has been set for the civil case, which also names the Broward Sheriff’s Office as a defendant. A case against the Broward School District was settled in 2022 for nearly $26 million.
Rafael Olmeda can be reached at [email protected] or 954-356-4457.