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

Man suing Penticton library for almost $20K has to settle for less

A man was suing the City of Penticton Library for almost $20,000 after his backpack was stolen

Fall drawdown at Osoyoos Lake starts

Lakeside residents can expect to see water levels drop six inches over the next week

Students down and very dirty at Freak’N Farmer

Students had a chance during the past two weeks to try out the Freak’N Farmer obstacle course

Penticton man with multiple driving infractions loses appeal on ‘harsh’ sentence

Driver has been convicted multiple times, including for criminal negligence causing death

Summerland music promoter wins national award

Paul Biro honoured at 2019 CCMA Awards in Calgary

Third instance of Trudeau in skin-darkening makeup emerges

Another instance of Trudeau using makeup to darken his face has emerged, within 24 hours of the first

‘This is not a drill’: Whistler Blackcomb gets first snowfall of the season

The 7th Heaven Summit had a dusting of snow Tuesday morning

Legislature gifts, clothing, travel need better control, B.C. auditor says

Audit follows suspensions of top managers by Speaker Darryl Plecas

Photos surface of Conservative candidate at B.C. event with people in blackface

The controversial “Black Peter” character has been a feature at Sinterklaas celebrations

Summerland cadet earns glider wings

Summer training program was held at CFB Comox on Vancouver Island

$13 million Kelowna cannabis facility deal terminated

GTEC Holdings did not give a reason for the purchase’s cancellation

Arrest made after fourth threat closes a Kamloops high school in nine days

Mounties have been chasing down a series of threats made to schools across Kamloops

West Kelowna motorcyclist awarded $132K for traffic accident

Supreme Court of British Columbia finds pickup truck driver liable for motorcylist’s injuries

Most Read