The suspect accused of carrying out the 2018 mass shooting at a Parkland, Fla., high school that killed 14 students and three staff members and injured 17 others will be entering a guilty plea in that case next week, his lawyer announced Friday. CNN reports that Broward County Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer has set a hearing for Wednesday so that Nikolas Cruz, 23, can change his plea to guilty on 17 charges of premeditated murder and 17 charges of attempted murder. A not guilty plea had been entered on his behalf two years earlier.
The guilty plea will come more than three and a half years after the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, considered the deadliest high school shooting and one of the worst school shootings ever in US history, per the New York Times. Cruz's lawyers had offered to put in a guilty plea in the past, if they could secure a deal that their client would receive life in prison without parole instead of the death penalty. Prosecutors have refused that arrangement, though Cruz's legal team will continue to argue against capital punishment in the next penalty phase.
Cruz got a jump on his guilty pleas on Friday, making another one in an unrelated case in which he was accused of assaulting Sgt. Raymond Beltran, a deputy who was guarding him at Broward County's main jail, in November 2018, per the Sun Sentinel. Cruz appeared at Friday's hearing, with the Times reporting he told Scherer he was nervous but understood what was going on during the proceedings. He also said he wasn't currently suffering from depression or anxiety, mental health problems he's said to have dealt with in the past. "I don't believe I have any issues," he told the court. Cruz faces a minimum of 14 months behind bars and a maximum of 15 years in the jail case. (Read more Nikolas Cruz stories.)