FILE- This Feb. 19, 2018 file photo shows Nikolas Cruz appearing in court for a status hearing before Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Florida prosecutors announced Tuesday, March 13 that they will seek the death penalty against Cruz, a former student charged in the fatal shooting of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last month. (Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP, Pool, File)

Facing death penalty, Florida school shooting suspect in court

Florida prosecutors announced that they will seek the death penalty against Cruz, a former student charged in the fatal shooting of 17 people

Now formally facing the death penalty, the suspect in the Valentine’s Day school shooting that killed 17 people in Florida is headed for a court appearance Wednesday on a 34-count indictment.

An arraignment hearing is set for 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, whose attorneys say he will plead guilty to all charges if the death penalty is not pursued in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre. But Broward County State Attorney Michael Satz on Tuesday filed formal notice that prosecutors will indeed seek capital punishment.

Related: US students stage school walkouts to protest gun violence

Broward County Public Defender Howard Finkelstein, whose office is representing Cruz, has said there were so many warning signs that Cruz was mentally unstable and potentially violent, and that the death penalty might be going too far.

In an email Tuesday, Finkelstein said Cruz is “immediately ready” to plead guilty in return for 34 consecutive life sentences.

“We are not saying he is not guilty but we can’t plead guilty while death is still on the table,” Finkelstein said.

Related: ‘Run’: A 6-minute fatal rampage for shocked Florida school

If Cruz does not enter a plea himself — known as standing mute before the court — a not guilty plea will likely be entered on his behalf by Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer to keep the legal process moving along, his attorneys have said.

In every case, there is always the possibility of a plea deal. The only other penalty option for Cruz, if convicted, is life in prison with no possibility of parole.

Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jamie Guttenberg died in the shooting, was angry the state decided to pursue the death penalty, noting how tortuously long capital punishment cases last.

“This guy’s is willing to plea and spend the rest of his life in the general population. Let him do that and let them do what they want with him,” Guttenberg said. “Why not take the plea and let the guy rot in hell?”


Associated Press writers Gary Fineout in Tallahassee, Jason Dearen in Gainesville and Tamara Lush in St. Petersburg contributed to this story.

Curt Anderson, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

School District No. 74 anti-racism posters spark controversy

A poster challenging white privilege has drawn the most attention, pro and con.

Parents’ reactions to School District No. 74 anti-racism posters

‘Until I educate myself I am on the fence’ is one response.

TNRD grant for Ashcroft HUB means substantial energy savings

New doors, windows, and lighting will make the HUB building viable for years to come.

Community Connect Expo to help with fire stress and trauma recovery

Full day event will feature a variety of workshops, organizations, and more to provide information.

Health Care Auxiliary lends a helping hand to Better at Home

Donation will help provide services to area seniors so they can stay in their homes and communities.

VIDEO: Climber ‘catches the sunrise’ over city atop B.C. crane

Police warn ‘rooftopping’ poses risk to climber, public and first responders

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

Salmon Arm community cheers on Natalie Wilkie as she wins first gold medal

Local skier tops the podium in 7.5km race at the PyeongChang Paralympics

Experts: Society has a role in trying to prevent domestic violence

Experts are speaking out following the murder of a woman and her son in Ontario

Progress on fixing Phoenix pay system backlog could be short-lived: Ottawa

Feds have said they won’t try to recover money overpaid until all outstanding issues are fixed

Northern lights chasers in Canada discover new type named ‘Steve’

Phenomenon linked to a powerful current created by charged particles in Earth’s upper atmosphere

Washington state backs B.C. in pipeline dispute

Governor Jay Inslee says he is ‘allied’ with the province on Trans Mountain expansion projection

SAY WHAT? Readers weigh in on high-speed rail to U.S.

B.C. to contribute $300,000 to a million-dollar business study on the proposed project

B.C.-based CEO charged with conspiring to sell unhackable phones to criminals

Vincent Ramos of Richmond, was arrested last week in Seattle in years-long undercover operation

Most Read