Florida prosecutors intend to seek death penalty for Parkland school shooter

19-year-old Nikolas Cruz will be formally arraigned Wednesday on a 34-count indictment

Posted: March 13, 2018
Last Updated: March 13, 2018

Nikolas Cruz appears at a court hearing in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. last month. Cruz is charged with killing 17 people and wounding many others in an attack at Parkland's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where he once attended classes. (Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)

Florida prosecutors say they will seek the death penalty against school shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz in the fatal shooting of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

The office of Broward County State Attorney Michael Satz filed the formal notice Tuesday.

The 19-year-old Cruz is scheduled for formal arraignment Wednesday on a 34-count indictment, including 17 first-degree murder charges. Cruz's attorneys have said he would plead guilty if the death penalty was not pursued in the Valentine's Day massacre. The action by prosecutors Tuesday does not necessarily mean a plea deal will not be reached.


The only other penalty option for Cruz is life in prison with no possibility of parole.

Broward County public defender Howard Finkelstein, whose office is representing Cruz, has said there were many warning signs that Cruz was mentally unstable and potentially violent, and that the death penalty might be going too far. 

After the filing, Cruz's attorneys repeated their offer for Cruz to plead guilty if prosecutors agreed to not pursue the death penalty.
"We still stand ready to immediately plead guilty to 34 consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole,"  Howard Finkelstein, a county public defender, wrote in an email. "If we are not allowed to do so tomorrow, we will stand mute to the charges. We are not saying he is not guilty, but we can't plead guilty while death is still on the table."

If Cruz does not enter a plea, a not guilty plea will likely be entered on his behalf by the judge, Elizabeth Scherer, to keep the legal process moving along, his attorneys have said.

Daniel Reed, a parent of a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, who initiated a petition to have Amazon remove the National Rifle Association's channel from its offerings, said he was opposed to the death penalty for Cruz.


"I don't think death will bring back the lives of the 17 people who were killed and it certainly doesn't solve our ongoing issue… when it comes to gun violence," Reed said. 

Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jamie Guttenberg also died in the shooting, was angry the state pursued the death penalty, noting how tortuously long capital punishment cases last.

"I expected that the state would have pulled the parents together to ask what we wanted and they didn't," he said.

With files from Reuters