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Thursday February 20th, 2020 2:47PM

The Latest: Judge refuses defense request to step aside

By The Associated Press
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PARKLAND, Fla. (AP) — The Latest on the aftermath of the mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida (all times local):

9:20 a.m.

A judge has refused to step aside from the case of Florida school shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz as requested by his lawyers.

Court records show that Broward County Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer denied the request Monday.

Cruz's lawyers claimed Scherer has made rulings and comments that indicate favoritism for prosecutors. They say in court papers that Cruz can't get a fair trial, but Scherer disagreed.

Cruz's lawyers' concerns revolve around a debate last week on whether to keep a defense confidential motion secret. Cruz, who's 19, is charged with 17 counts of murder in the Valentine's Day shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

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7:55 a.m.

The suspect in the mass shooting at a Florida high school refused to let the district continue providing him with mental health services after he turned 18 and the superintendent of schools says federal law kept them from doing anything about it.

Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie tells the Sun Sentinel "You can't make someone do something when the law says they have the right to make that determination."

Nikolas Cruz, now 19, is accused killing 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine's Day.

Runcie says Cruz had attended a school with programs for emotionally and disabled students, and returned to Douglas in August 2016. By November, he says the "situation had deteriorated." With the support of his mother, Cruz refused special needs services and remained at the school until February 2017.

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7:35 a.m.

A court hearing on procedural matters for Florida school shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz has been canceled.

Court records show a hearing that had been scheduled for Tuesday is no longer on the docket. No immediate explanation was given.

Prosecutors had sought in the hearing to obtain an order allowing them to get hair and DNA samples from Cruz, as well as fingerprints and photographs.

The 19-year-old Cruz is charged with 17 counts of murder in the Valentine's Day shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Police say Cruz confessed to the crime.

Cruz wasn't expected to appear at the hearing.

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6:15 p.m.

The Florida Senate Rules Committee has voted 9-4 for a bill that would raise the age to purchase rifles from 18 to 21 and create a three-day waiting period to buy the weapons.

Those rules are already in place for handguns. The bill also would make it easier to block gun sales or confiscate weapons from people who show violent tendencies or signs of mental illness.

The bill approved Monday also would let Florida counties authorize teachers to carry concealed weapons in school if they undergo law enforcement training and are deputized by the local sheriff's office.

But the committee refused to add an overall assault-style weapon ban in the bill, voting that amendment down 6-7 after more than two hours of testimony from dozens of gun safety advocates. Those advocates pleaded with lawmakers to ban weapons like the AR-15 used to kill 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine's Day.

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Follow the AP's complete coverage of the Florida school shooting here: https://apnews.com/tag/Floridaschoolshooting .

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