Florida Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer is overseeing the trial of Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz, who was convicted of killing 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day in 2014.
She went viral earlier this week after a bizarre exchange during the selection proceedings when a woman told her she had a scheduling conflict and couldn’t serve on the jury because she was both married and had "a sugar daddy."
Scherer was a prosecutor for over a decade before joining Florida’s 17th Judicial Circuit in 2012, appointed by then-Gov. Rick Scott.
She’s an avowed equestrian, doting mom and former state champion volleyball player, according to her Instagram account, which gained several thousand followers this week after an exchange between her and a prospective juror went viral.
She also serves on the boards of directors for both Voices For Children and St. Anthony Catholic School Friends For Education, according to her court bio. She is a volunteer faculty member at the school and was named a judicial advocate of the year in 2013.
That year, she lambasted child welfare authorities and a local foster operator after a 4-year-old boy in the foster system was found dead at his biological mother's apartment, according to CBS Miami. The mother had a history of mental illness and had lost custody but was attempting to regain it – and despite Scherer's instructions, the foster operator allegedly sent the child to her home for an unsupervised visit.
Scherer attended Florida State University for a bachelor’s in English and went to law school at the University of Miami.
Her father, Bill Scherer, is a high-profile attorney himself who once represented then-candidate George W. Bush in a ballot dispute following the 2000 presidential election.
Her ex-husband, Anthony Mercer, was accused of drug-trafficking charges in 2009, when she was a prosecutor in the Broward County State Attorney’s Office. She filed for divorce the next day, although the Sun-Sentinel reported at the time that they had already been separated for months. Court records show the charges were later dropped after he completed a drug court program.
In 2014, she signed off on a controversial search warrant that resulted in an unarmed drug-dealing suspect suffering fatal gunshot wounds while standing in his own kitchen, according to the Broward-Palm Beach New Times.
Police also killed his dog, the Sun-Sentinel reported, and he was charged with "resisting arrest without violence" but died 11 days later, before his case ever made it to court.
Investigators found no police misconduct in the incident, but the city later came to a $425,000 settlement with Bowe’s family.
Jury selection for the penalty phase in Cruz’s trial began this week after years of delays, some of which stemmed out of the coronavirus pandemic. He could face the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole.
More than 120 of the first 160 to appear before Scherer Monday were dismissed. The woman with the "sugar daddy" excuse, identified only by her last name, Bristol, was among them.
"I'm married, and I have my sugar daddy," she told Scherer, in an apparent excuse as to why she didn’t have time to serve on the jury. "I see him every day."
"OK. All right," Scherer replied. "Ma'am, we'll come back to you, OK? Thank you."
The sentencing phase is expected to take up to four months.
Bristol wasn’t the only prospective juror to ask to be dismissed. Several cited family commitments, work or previously booked travel plans. Some did not sufficiently speak English, and others had health issues.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.