FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Nikolas Cruz, the man who confessed to killing 14 students and three staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018 pleaded guilty Wednesday to 17 counts of first-degree murder.
He faces life in prison or the death penalty.
The previous story is below.
The gunman who killed 14 students and three staff members at a Parkland, Florida, high school is expected to plead guilty for their murders on Wednesday, bringing some closure to a South Florida community three years after the attack that sparked a nationwide movement for gun control.
Last week, Nikolas Cruz's attorney, David Wheeler, told Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer that he will plead guilty to 17 counts of first-degree murder in the February 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The plea will not come with conditions, meaning prosecutors can still seek the death penalty.
If prosecutors go forward with seeking the death penalty, then a jury will ultimately make the final decision in a trial the judge hopes will begin in January.
In the aftermath of the shooting, Parkland student activists formed March for Our Lives, a group that rallied hundreds of thousands around the country for tighter gun laws, including a nationally televised march in Washington, D.C.
The decision by Cruz to plead guilty came unexpectedly. He had been set to go on trial this week for attacking a Broward County jail guard.
Cruz and his lawyers had long offered to plead guilty to the shooting in exchange for a life sentence, but prosecutors had rejected that deal.
Attorney David Weinstein, a former Florida prosecutor who is not involved in the case, said by pleading guilty to the murder charges, Cruz's lawyers will be able to tell the jury in the penalty hearing that he “has accepted responsibility, has shown remorse and saved the victim’s families the additional trauma of a guilt phase trial.”
The jurors also won’t repeatedly see the security videos that reportedly captured the shooting in graphic detail. Their goal will be to persuade one juror to vote for a life sentence — unanimity will be required to sentence Cruz to death.