Oct 20, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Nikolas Cruz pleads guilty to Parkland school shooting

Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz at the defense table during jury selection at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Oct. 6, 2021. Photo: Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Nikolas Cruz on Wednesday pleaded guilty on all counts for carrying out the 2018 shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., that left 17 people dead, including 14 students and three staff members.

Driving the news: Cruz, 23, pleaded guilty at a hearing on Wednesday to 17 murder counts and 17 counts of attempted first-degree murder for carrying out the deadly shooting.

  • The case now turns to a penalty phase, where a 12-person jury will determine Cruz's sentencing, AP reports.
  • Family members of the victims killed by Cruz on Feb. 14, 2018, sat in the courtroom to watch the hearing, wiping tears and holding each other.
  • Cruz, given the chance to speak, said that he understands that a jury will decide his penalty, but he believes the victims should choose "whether I should take life or death."
  • Cruz last week also pleaded guilty to attacking a jail guard nine months after the shooting.

The big picture: Cruz and his lawyers have long sought to plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence instead of the death penalty, AP writes.

  • Prosecutors, however, including longtime Broward State Attorney Mike Satz, have rejected the deal, saying the death penalty should be considered.
  • The Parkland shooting set off a wave of activism from survivors of the deadly attack, prompting the launch of March for Our Lives and leading students around the country to call for tighter gun control legislation.

What to watch: A jury will decide the sentencing for Cruz. Hearings to select the jury are scheduled throughout November and December, with a goal to begin testimony in January, per AP.

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