Parkland school mass shooter Nikolas Cruz to plead guilty, lawyers confirm

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz will plead guilty to 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder. The plea was first reported Thursday evening citing anonymous sources.

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Update 10:56 a.m. EST, Oct. 15: Lawyers for Cruz confirmed that their client will plead guilty, The Associated Press reported Friday morning.

His attorneys told Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer that he will enter his plea Wednesday to 17 counts of first-degree murder. The agreement comes with no conditions and prosecutors are still expected to seek the death penalty. The penalty phase will be decided by a jury but that has not yet been scheduled, the AP reported.

Cruz will also plead guilty to 17 counts of attempted first-degree murder and the attack of a jail guard.

Cruz did not appear in court Friday, the AP reported.

Original report: WSVN-TV, citing an anonymous source, said Cruz, 23, the suspect in the Feb. 14, 2018, mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, would enter the plea Friday morning.

However, the Broward County Public Defender’s Office, which represents the confessed gunman, has not confirmed the report, according to the Sun-Sentinel. Cruz is scheduled to appear at a status hearing Friday, the newspaper reported. He is expected to enter his plea at that time, according to WSVN.

Cruz had already confessed to the killings of students and staff at the Broward County school, the television station reported.

Prosecutors at the Broward State Attorney’s Office referred questions to the defense lawyers, according to the Sun-Sentinel.

“No plea agreement has been reached with our office,” spokesperson Paula McMahon told the newspaper.

Cruz’s defense team said Cruz would plead guilty to life in prison without parole if prosecutors took the death penalty off the table, according to WSVN. That offer has been denied by prosecutors.

It would still be up to a jury to decide whether Cruz should be sentenced to death or receive life in prison, the Miami Herald reported.

Defendants can plead guilty to the court and proceed to a sentencing hearing, the newspaper reported.

“There have been no plea negotiations with the prosecution,” the State Attorney’s Office said in a statement. “If he pleads guilty, there would still be a penalty phase.”

Guilt has never been in serious question, the Sun-Sentinel reported. There had been no official indication of plans to pursue an insanity defense, and the only other way to remove the death penalty as a possibility would be for the defense to persuade jurors to convict Cruz of a lesser charge, the newspaper reported.

“The odds of that are slim to none, with an emphasis on none,” former prosecutor Ken Padowitz, now a defense attorney, told the Sun-Sentinel. “The evidence in this case is so public and so overwhelming that it’s insurmountable.”

On the day of the attack, Cruz wielded an assault-style rifle to gun down students and staff members in what is still Florida’s deadliest school shooting, the Herald reported.

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