FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Nikolas Cruz, the man who confessed to the murder of 17 people at a suburban high school in 2018, is due for a last-minute hearing in Florida on Friday.
The hearing in the Broward County Circuit Court was abruptly scheduled for Thursday and does not reveal the purpose. However, WSVN-TV reported without citation that Cruz would admit to all 17 murders against him. Cruz’s lawyers did not respond to calls, texts and emails from the Associated Press.
Cruz will also admit to all 17 attempted murders at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, according to the report. According to court records, the trial was before Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer. A hearing date was not set.
The report stated that Cruz will still face a jury to determine whether he should face the death penalty or life imprisonment. Prosecutors have always insisted that Cruz deserved death for the murders.
The Broward County state’s attorney’s office issued a statement Thursday night saying Cruz’s lawyers would have to comment on any possible charges.
“We have to direct all your questions to the defense,” the state’s attorney said in a statement. “There was no defense meeting with the prosecutor’s office. If he pleads guilty, there will still be a phase of punishment.”
Preparations continue for what will become the largest murder trial in Broward County history and one of the most infamous crimes in Florida.
Cruz, 23, was arrested about an hour after the attack with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle on Valentine’s Day 2018.
His lawyers have repeatedly offered to plead guilty in exchange for a guaranteed life sentence, but prosecutors have refused to waive the death penalty. A guilty plea both avoids a traumatic, lengthy trial and allows the jury to decide Cruz’s fate.
Much of the sentencing phase will focus on Cruz’s mental state during the murders, highlighting the gruesome nature of the prosecutors and Cruz’s intense planning ahead.
Tony Montalto, head of the Stand With Parkland group, which represents the victims’ families, said Thursday night that neither he nor any parents he spoke to had been informed that Cruz would plead guilty, but he was not surprised. Montalto’s 14-year-old daughter was killed in the shooting.
“There is little doubt that he killed my beautiful daughter, Gina, or 16 other victims. There is little doubt that he shot 17 other people and terrorized all the other students at the school. We just hope the system gives him justice,” Montalto said.
When asked if Cruz deserved the death penalty, Montalto said, “As a society, we must deter anyone as much as possible from attacking our schools in any form.”