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

One person trapped in rollover crash on Malahat

Fuel truck is leaking, Trans-Canada Highway expected to be closed for a significant time

A week after he went missing, family, friends and volunteers continue search for Ben Kilmer

Friends and family are now looking in areas north of Highway 18 and towards Lake Cowichan

Cowichan G’n’Tea fundraiser to raise money for seniors programs

The event features gin tasting of handcrafted spirits by local Stillhead Distillery and tea tasting

VIDEO: Local resident asks councillors to improve safety at Lakeview Park beach

There’s no need to offer direct access to the beach, Sandsmark says

Business notes: The prawn rush is on at Mad Dogs Crab Seafood market

The store will be selling the prawns for the next three weeks

VIDEO: Heritage Days 2018 offers family fun

With a Mountie in red serge leading the parade, vintage trucks motor through Lake Cowichan

Early learning programs for Indigeous kids get $30M boost

B.C. government to help expand Aboriginal Head Start Association programs with three-year funding

Ferry sailing cancelled after ship’s second officer falls ill

Coastal Inspiration’s 8:15 p.m. sailing to Nanaimo on Tuesday cancelled, passengers to be compensated

B.C. man recounts intense rescue of couple caught in mudslide

Something told Dan Anderson to go back to the scene of a major mudslide on the long weekend.

The priciest home for sale in Canada: A $38M Vancouver penthouse

Canada’s luxury real estate: The top 10 most expensive properties for sale right now

9 temperature records broken across B.C. as warm weather continues

Clearwater, Golden, Williams Lake, Malahat a few of the cities that broke records Wednesday

COLUMN: Stanley Cup final prediction

Upstart Vegas Golden Knights clash with Washington Capitals

Vancouver Island wildfire burning near Campbell River coal mine

The fire is suspected to be human caused at this time

Big brew tanks headed for Chilliwack wrapped to look like beer cans

Snap a #beertanks selfie if you see massive tanks en route to Chilliwack

Most Read