Melissa McNeill has found herself the object of scrutiny for comforting Florida shooter Nikolas Cruz at his bond hearing. Here’s all the details on this public defender.
On, Feb. 15, while standing for a his bond trial, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, was joined by his court-appointed attorney Melissa McNeill. As he was ordered held without bail, Melissa attempted to comfort Nikolas, putting her arm around him. The attorney has been swiftly criticized for the gesture considering he’s accused of killing 17 people yesterday in a Parkland, Florida school. In light of these circumstances, we decided to take a closer look Melissa and the difficult position she is in.
1) Melissa is the Assistant Public Defender in the Homicide Division of Broward County’s Public Defenders. She has worked in this division for 18 years. While Nikolas cowered in court on Feb. 15, Melissa stood steadfast beside him, even comforting him. It was revealed after the trial that Nikolas is on suicide watch and that knows the real impact of what he’s done. Head here for more photos from the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
2) Afterward, she explained that Nikolas deeply regrets his actions. “He’s sad. He’s mournful. He’s remorseful. He is fully aware of what is going on, and he’s just a broken human being,” she told reporters, via the Daily Mail, getting emotional. “I had to have the exact same conversation that every parent in Broward had to have with their children this morning, then I had to walk and meet with him. I’m fully aware of the impact this has on the people who live here.”
3) McNeill shared that Nikolas suffers from autism and depression as a result of his past. They also believe he is largely without a support system to cope with serious trauma. “When your brain is not fully developed, you don’t know how to deal with these things,” she explained. “That’s the child I’m sitting across from.”
4) Florida Attorney General Pan Bondi is said to be seeking the death penalty considering the gravity of Nikolas’ alleged crimes.
5) Melissa isn’t the only attorney defending Nikolas. He is also represented by Gordon Weekes. “He is dealing with the shock of all this that’s going on.” He also added that Nikolas feels “deeply sad” for what he’s done.
HollywoodLifers, what do you think? Was it wrong for Melissa to comfort her client? Share your thoughts and responses in the comments section below.