Nikolas Cruz to plead guilty to deadliest Parkland high school shooting
23-year-old Nikolas Cruz intends to plead guilty next week to charges stemming from the February 2018 massacre at South Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (the deadliest high school shooting in US history) his attorney said Friday in court.
The plea would come more than three and a half years after the Valentine’s Day shooting in Parkland that left 17 students and faculty members dead and injured 17 others.
If accepted, the plea would start to wrap up a legal chapter in a massacre that scarred a community and spawned a massive national protest movement against gun violence in American schools.
Cruz appeared briefly Friday in Broward County court to plead guilty to charges related to a November 2018 jail assault.
But potentially the more consequential move was defense attorney David Wheeler’s statement in court that Cruz intends to plead guilty in the school shooting, which could avert a lengthy trial.
Broward County Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer set a change of plea hearing for Wednesday morning.
Cruz’s defense team had long ago offered a guilty plea in exchange for life in prison without the possibility of parole — but only if prosecutors took the death penalty off the table. Prosecutors had rejected that, saying they were seeking the death penalty.
Cruz previously pleaded not guilty to 17 counts of premeditated murder in the first degree and 17 counts of attempted murder in the first degree, though he had confessed to police, according to a probable cause affidavit.
Details about what prompted Wheeler to announce Friday that Cruz intends to plead guilty weren’t immediately available.
On Thursday, the Broward State Attorney’s Office released a statement saying “there have been no plea negotiations with the prosecution,” and “if he pleads guilty, there would still be a penalty phase.”
The impact of the February 2018 shooting was felt far beyond South Florida, as survivors and victims’ relatives quickly spoke out and confronted lawmakers to plead for gun control reform. Other students in the US joined the cause, staging their own protests and school walkouts in the months after the massacre.