Nikolas Cruz Admits Anxiety as He Pleads Guilty to Massacre

Parkland shooter admits to 17 counts of murder, 17 of attempted murder
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 20, 2021 9:45 AM CDT
Nikolas Cruz Admits Anxiety as He Pleads Guilty to Massacre
Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz sits at the defense table.   (Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel via AP, Pool)

(Newser) – Nikolas Cruz pleaded guilty to murder on Wednesday in the 2018 high school massacre in Parkland, Fla., that left 17 dead. Cruz, 23, entered his plea after answering a long list of questions from Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer aimed at confirming his mental competency. Local 10 reports he did tell Scherer he was feeling some anxiety but that he understood all her questions and instructions. Scherer then stated the 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted first-degree murder he's charged with, in each case naming the victim or intended victim in the Feb. 14, 2018, attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, reports the AP.

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A penalty trial will determine if Cruz will receive a sentence of death or life in prison without parole. Scherer plans to begin screening jurors next month in hopes testimony can begin in January. NBC News reports the Friday announcement by Cruz's defense team that he would plead guilty came as a surprise, and the Miami Herald reports Cruz's attorneys haven't publicly explained why he opted to plead guilty. NBC News notes the pleas carry no conditions and prosecutors still intend to seek the death penalty.

A Miami defense attorney not associated with the case tells the Herald it might be a move designed to help convince jurors to opt for a life sentence instead: "If you're looking at the chessboard, one of the calculations is the argument of remorse and contrition. That's the one thing they could argue to the jury. They couldn't have argued that if they'd gone to the guilt phase." (Read more Nikolas Cruz stories.)

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