Nikolas Cruz to plead guilty in Parkland shooting, lawyer says as court mulls death sentence

Jury likely to decide whether 23-year-old will avoid capital punishment for deaths of 17 people

Gino Spocchia
Friday 15 October 2021 19:23

Nikolas Cruz to plead guilty for Parkland school massacre

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The suspect in the Parkland high school shooting is expected to plead guilty to carrying out the attack, his lawyer has reportedly said, as prosecutors continue to weigh-up a death sentence.

Nikolas Cruz was charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder for the killing of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in February 2018.

He was arrested within an hour of the attack and has frequently admitted to the killings through his lawyers, although not formally, with prosecutors threatening a death sentence for the 23-year-old.

Reports of a last-minute hearing on Thursday came as unnamed sources told WSVN-TV that Mr Cruz would plead guilty through his lawyers during a status hearing on Friday.

He will not be present at the Broward County Court, the Sun Sentinel reported, with his legal team set to ask for a lifetime jail term without a death sentence.

Florida’s attorney, Ashley Moody, said she referred all questions to the defence and added: “There have been no plea negotiations with the prosecution. If he pleads guilty, there would still be a penalty phase.”

Prosecutors had been weighing up a death sentence for Mr Cruz, who is accused of committing one of the most infamous crimes in recent memory.

By admitting to the offences, it is possible that Mr Cruz will avoid a death sentence as a reward for not putting families and survivors of the shooting through a trial.

It is likely that the court now proceeds with appointing a jury to decide if he should face the penalty.

Hunter Pollack, the brother of victim Meadow Pollack, tweeted on Thursday: “Time to sentence this monster. Our families need justice to be served. It’s 1,338 days overdue.”

“It isn’t a question of who deserves death, it’s that the question shouldn’t even be asked,” another Twitter user wrote. “Otherwise, we are no better than the criminals we seek to punish.”

Additional reporting by The Associated Press