Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz has pleaded not guilty to killing 17 people at his old school last month. Judge Elizabeth Scherer entered the pleas on Cruz’s behalf after he stayed silent during a court appearance Wednesday.
The denial is a technicality arising from a deadlock between Cruz’s lawyers – who want him spared the death penalty – and prosecutors, who say he should be executed.
Cruz lawyers had earlier said he would admit 34 charges against him – including 17 counts of premeditated murder – if he was jailed for life instead.
But Florida state prosecutors have already said they want Cruz, 19, executed if convicted, meaning the two sides now face wrangling out a compromise.
During Wednesday’s hearing in Fort Lauderdale, Cruz kept his eyes on the floor as his case was discussed. He wore a red prison uniform and shackles and shuffled unsteadily out of the court while flanked by three burly corrections officers.
The hearing also saw his finances discussed, with the killer set to receive a $25,000 life insurance policy taken out by his mom Lynda Cruz before her death from flu last Autumn. Relatives of those allegedly murdered by Cruz sat stony-faced throughout the hearing, with some wiping tears from their eyes as it finished. Cruz killed 14 students and three members of staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on Valentine’s Day.
He turned up at his old school with an AR-15 assault rifle, and proceeded to cut down his victims shortly before the school day ended. Broward County Sheriff’s say he subsequently confessed, with the main thrust of the court case now about deciding whether or not he should be condemned to death.