Parkland, Florida, school shooter Nikolas Cruz is reportedly going to plead guilty to all 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder, according to reports.
A last-minute court hearing is set Friday.
WSVN-7 South Florida tweeted the news Thursday evening:
“7News has learned that Nikolas Cruz will plead *guilty* to all 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the MSD mass shooting case. @wsvn”
Cruz’s defense attorneys had sought a plea deal that would have given him life in prison without parole if the death penalty were taken off the table, but prosecutors declined the offer and a death sentence remains a possibility, according to the report.
Once the plea has been filed, a jury will decide whether Cruz will be put to death or spend the rest of his life in prison for killing 17 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14, 2018.
WSVN-7’s Daniel Cohen also tweeted that the public defender’s office “would not confirm or deny our reporting on the guilty pleas.”
Cruz, now 23, faces several charges in a prison brawl case currently at trial, including attempted aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer.
The outcome of that trial is likely to be used as an aggravating factor in the penalty phase of the Parkland shooting trial that was expected follow later this year, The Associated Press reported.
Friday’s hearing is before Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer, court records show. No trial date had been set.
The Broward County state attorney’s office issued a statement Thursday night saying Cruz’s lawyers would have to comment on any possible guilty plea.
“We have to refer all of your questions to the defense,” the state attorney’s statement said. “There have been no plea negotiations with the prosecution. If he pleads guilty, there would still be a penalty phase.”
Preparations have been ongoing for what would be the biggest murder trial in Broward County history, and one of the most infamous crimes ever in Florida.
Cruz was arrested about an hour after the attack with an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle on Valentine’s Day 2018.
Much of the penalty phase would likely focus on Cruz’s mental condition at the time of the slayings, with prosecutors emphasizing their horrific nature and Cruz’s intensive planning beforehand.
Tony Montalto, president of the Stand With Parkland group that represents the families of the victims, said Thursday night, neither he nor any parent he has spoken to has been informed Cruz would plead guilty, but he is not surprised. Montalto’s 14-year-old daughter died in the shooting.
“There is very little doubt he murdered my beautiful daughter, Gina, or the 16 other victims,” Montalto said. “There is very little doubt he shot the other 17 people and terrorized all the other students at the school. We just hope the system gives him justice.”
When asked if he believes Cruz deserves the death penalty, Montalto said, “As a society, we need to disincentivize to the maximum extent possible anyone from attacking our schools, whatever form that takes.”
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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