Florida shooting: Prosecutors seek death penalty for Nikolas Cruz

Erika Holt
March 14, 2018

Florida prosecutors will seek the death penalty for Nikolas Cruz, the former student accused of murdering 17 people in a shooting spree last month at a Parkland high school, according to a notice filed in court on Tuesday.

Prosecutors in the case listed several aggravating factors that they say contributed to the decision to seek the death penalty, including that Mr Cruz "knowingly created a great risk of death to many persons".

Nikolas Cruz, who was arrested after that massacre on Valentine's Day in Parkland, Florida, was indicted last week by a grand jury in Broward County on 17 counts of premeditated murder in the first degree, and 17 counts of attempted murder in the first degree.

It was unclear whether Cruz would be present, a spokesman for the court told AFP.

Cruz's public defender has argued that he suffers from serious mental illness, noting that he will enter a guilty plea if prosecutors agree to not seek the death penalty.

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He was later arrested and admitted under questioning to having carried out the attack. His attorneys have said he is willing to plead guilty if they take the death penalty off the table. The announcement doesn't negate the ability for a plea deal to be reached.

Prosecutors will consider testimony on Cruz's mental health from experts, provided it is given at least 20 days before trial.

On Wednesday, tens of thousands of United States students plan to observe 17 minutes of silence to mark the deaths exactly one month after the Parkland shooting, and to press lawmakers to enact a ban on AR-15-style weapons.

Cruz's attorneys withdrew his not guilty plea on Friday, and Cruz now "stands mute" to the charges.

Shortly before the commission hearing in St. Petersburg, students from Tampa Bay area schools spoke passionately in favor of additional gun regulations, as did the father of a student who attends Marjory Stoneman Douglas.

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