Florida Shooting Suspect's Fate Remains Up in the Air

Prosecutors have not yet said if they'll pursue the death penalty against Nikolas Cruz
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 18, 2018 4:55 PM CST
Nikolas Cruz Will Likely Plead Guilty if Execution Waived
Chief Assistant Public Defender Gordon Weekes speaks with the media following a video appearance by school shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz in Broward County Court, Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.   (Charles Trainor Jr./Miami Herald via AP, Pool)

The evidence against the Florida school shooting suspect is so overwhelming, the main question revolving around the trial of Nikolas Cruz might be whether he will be sentenced to death or spend the rest of his life in prison. The fate of 19-year-old Cruz, who faces 17 counts of first-degree murder in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, will depend on his mental state and the wishes of the victims' families, which have a say in how the prosecution proceeds. Broward County Public Defender Howard Finkelstein said there were so many warning signs that Cruz was mentally unstable and potentially violent that the death penalty might be going too far. He added that Cruz would likely plead guilty if prosecutors opt not to seek the death penalty, per the AP.

Michael J. Satz, the state attorney for Broward County, said his office is working with law enforcement and will announce later what penalty it plans to seek. The prosecution will likely take years. The sheriff's office said Cruz confessed, and they have his AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, ammunition clips, and video from the school. Cruz could try to plead innocent by reason of insanity, which rarely works. James Holmes, the shooter who killed 12 people and wounded 70 in a Colorado movie theater in 2012, was convicted despite pleading insanity and was sentenced to life behind bars. Even if he pleads guilty and prosecutors refuse to waive the death penalty, a jury must decide by a 12-0 vote that Cruz deserves to be executed. (The family with whom Cruz lived said they had no inkling.)

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