The former student, who was charged with shooting 17 people at his high school in Parkland, Fla., plans to plead guilty in 2018 to 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder, according to his lawyers. one of them said on Friday.
On February 14, 2018, a stampede at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School killed 14 students and three faculty members and injured 17 and was one of the deadliest school shootings in American history.
According to police, the former student, Nicolas Cruz, who was 19 at the time and had a history of mental health and behavioral problems, used a semi-automatic rifle that he had bought legally.
David Wheeler, one of Mr Cruz’s lawyers, said in court on Friday: “We intend to change the petition as all charges in both cases.” Mr Cruz was to appear in court later on Friday morning to plead guilty in a separate case related to a fight with a guard in prison.
Judge Elizabeth Scherer said she would hear on Wednesday to change Mr Cruz’s plea in the Parkland shooting case.
There was no indication that Mr Cruz’s lawyers had reached an agreement on sentencing with prosecutors, who had previously said they would pursue the death penalty.
“There is no agreement with our office,” Broward County State Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Paula McMahon said in an email Thursday. “Even if he pleads guilty, there will still be a penalty phase.”
Mr Cruz’s lawyer said he would ask the judge to serve 17 consecutive life sentences.
Prior to the shooting, Mr. Cruise recorded three videos on his cellphone, indicating that he, like many young perpetrators of mass shootings, wanted his name to be remembered.
“When you see me on the news, you all will know who I am,” he said on a video. “You’re all going to die.”
The shootings led thousands of students, who grew up in an era of school shooting drills and lockdowns, to pull out of their classrooms and march for stricter gun control laws and an end to gun violence. Some of the marches were led by teenagers who survived the Parkland shootings and who quickly emerged as leaders of the younger generation of activists.
Less than a month after the shooting, a Broward County prosecutor made his decision to seek the death penalty public.
In a 2018 filing in Broward County Circuit Court, prosecutor, Michael J. Saitz, who was Broward County state attorney at the time, cited seven aggravating factors that he said could have qualified Cruz for execution. Those factors enshrined in Florida law include that Mr. Cruise “deliberately put many people at a great risk of death” and that the capital’s felony was “particularly heinous, brutal or brutal” at issue.
Mr Cruz’s lawyers have repeatedly stated that he would agree to plead guilty in exchange for life in prison without the possibility of parole and that he would not contest his crime in what was certainly a painful and emotional trial. He indicated that he would instead focus on proving mitigating conditions such as extreme mental pressure. Under Florida law, a single juror can commute the death penalty.
A fight with an officer in prison dates back to November 2018, when Mr Cruz was charged with assaulting an officer and grabbing his electroshock weapon while in a Fort Lauderdale prison.
After Sergeant Raymond Beltran told Mr Cruise not to “pull his sandals on the ground”, according to an affidavit, Mr Cruise made an obscene gesture and “hurried” him and “hit his face.” The affidavit said that both the men came to the ground. According to the affidavit, the video shows Mr Cruz was once on top of Sergeant Beltran, punching him several times in the head.
Mr Cruz was to face trial on those charges next week, but the jury’s selection in that case was rocky, an indication of how difficult it would be to try Mr Cruz in an area still battered by the Parkland attack.
Earlier this month, many potential jurors wept after seeing Mr. Cruise for the first time, and Mr. Cruise himself wept in front of jurors. His lawyers tried to give him colored pencils, which they said was an attempt to pacify him, but the judge ordered him to appear mentally unstable after prosecutors accused his lawyers of using pencils. for them to be taken.
Long before the school shooting, Mr. Cruise’s behavior had worried school officials. In 2016, Mr. Cruz told another student he had a gun at home and was thinking about using it, prompting two guidance counselors at the high school and a sheriff’s deputy to conclude That he should be forcibly committed to a mental evaluation. Health records that were obtained by The New York Times.
But it appears Mr Cruz was institutionalized never in a span of five days in September 2016, despite claiming to have threatened himself and others, biting his arms with a pencil sharpener, and drinking gasoline in a possible attempt to kill himself. Didn’t happen.
The revelation that school officials tried to commit Mr. Cruise in 2016 was another reveal in a series of missed opportunities for dealing with the troubled young man.
Representatives of the local sheriff were repeatedly called to Mr. Cruz’s residences, but did not find sufficient reason to arrest them. The FBI did not investigate suggestions about Mr. Cruise’s apparent interest in the school shooting, even when a woman called to say she had weapons and “was about to explode.”
The Broward County Sheriff’s Office later came under intense criticism after video showed one of its representatives, Scott Peterson, standing outside the school for nearly an hour as the stampede continued. He awaits trial on charges of grievous neglect of a child. Three other deputies were fired over their reaction to the shooting, and Governor Ron DeSantis made good on the promise of a campaign to replace the sheriff when he took office in 2019.