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

UPDATE: Police say false bomb threat came from computer and printer in the school

“The threat was a hoax by a student,” said Port McNeill RCMP.

Winds of up to 90 km/hr predicted to hit Vancouver Island

Environment Canada is warning that loose objects may cause damage

VIDEO: North Island Bantam Eagles still undefeated, dominate Oceanside Generals in Port Hardy

Who can stop the North Island Bantam Eagles? The answer so far this season is, well, no one.

VIDEO: North Island Atom Eagles tie Victoria Ice Hawks, fall in rematch

The North Island Atom Eagles will be back in league play action at home in January.

Strong winds expected to hit north, west Vancouver Island: Environment Canada

Environment Canada said southeast winds will reach speeds of 70 to 90 kilometres per hour

VIDEO: Close encounter with a whale near Canada-U.S border

Ron Gillies had his camera ready when a whale appeared Dec. 7

B.C. Lions hire DeVone Claybrooks as head coach

Former Stampeders DC succeeds CFL legend Wally Buono

France shooting: 2 dead, several wounded in Strasbourg

A world-famous Christmas market was put on lock down on Tuesday

Canadian warship witnesses possible violations of North Korea sanctions

Crew members on HMCS Calgary took photos and collected other information

Christine Sinclair named Canadian Women’s player of the year again

This is the 14th time Sinclair has been named player of the year

B.C. man wants trapping laws changed after dog killed

Louis Seguin’s 10-month-old Australian shepherd died in a body-gripping trap last month

Nearly 8,000 homeless in B.C., first province-wide count reveals

Twenty-four seperate counts in B.C. cities found there are thousands of homeless in all corners of province

Mental health issue suspected after spike belts end Island Highway car chase

Woman in her 30s detained after Tuesday afternoon incident in Lantzville

Most Read