By Kevin Deutsch
Nikolas Cruz, the killer who massacred 17 people with gunfire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018 and wounded 17 more, will plead guilty to committing the mass shooting, his lawyers said in court Friday.
Cruz, 23, who has confessed to the school shooting, previously pleaded not guilty in the hopes of avoiding a death sentence at trial. But in a hearing for a separate battery case Friday, Cruz’s lawyers said he would change his plea in the mass killing case at his next court appearance, scheduled for Wednesday.
Cruz on Friday also pleaded guilty in the battery case, which stemmed from his Nov. 13 beating of a Broward Sheriff’s Office jail guard while in custody. He will also be sentenced in that case Wednesday.
“Yes, ma’am,” Cruz repeated numerous times Friday, as Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer asked him a series of questions about his guilty plea in the battery case.
Since his arrest for the school shooting, Cruz’s lawyers have maintained he would plead guilty if prosecutors reversed their decision to seek the death penalty. Prosecutors have declined to do so, and there is no plea agreement in place with the state.
Cruz will still face a jury for the penalty phase of his case. They will decide whether he receives life in prison or death by state execution.
Under Florida law, a death sentence must be rendered unanimously by all 12 jurors.
On Feb. 14, Cruz, who had been expelled from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, returned with an AR-15 assault rifle and opened fire in a school building, targeting students and staff members.
The victims killed in the attack were Alyssa Alhadeff, 14, Scott Beigel, 35, Martin Duque, 14, Nicholas Dworet, 17, Aaron Feis, 37, Jaime Guttenberg, 14, Chris Hixon, 49, Luke Hoyer, 15, Cara Loughran, 14, Gina Montalto, 14, Joaquin Oliver, 17, Alaina Petty, 14, Meadow Pollack, 18, Helena Ramsay, 17, Alex Schachter, 14, Carmen Schentrup, 16, and Peter Wang, 15.
Their murders devastated the community.
They also spurred the Florida Legislature to pass limited gun reform, sparked vocal student activism across the nation, and raised questions about school security in Broward County.
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- Kevin Deutsch is an award-winning crime journalist and author. A graduate of Florida International University, Kevin has worked on staff at The Miami Herald, New York Daily News, and The Palm Beach Post.
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