Miami, Oct 20 (EFE).- Nikolas Cruz on Wednesday pleaded guilty to killing 17 students and faculty members and wounding 17 others in a 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Florida, an incident in which he fired indiscriminately with a semi-automatic rifle.
As his defense team had indicated on Friday, the 23-year-old Cruz accepted each of the counts of premeditated murder and attempted murder during the hearing at a court in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, a city around 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of Miami.
During the televised hearing, Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer asked Cruz if he understood that by pleading guilty to the 17 premeditated murder charges he would – at a minimum – spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole and could face the death penalty.
She also made it clear to him that by accepting guilt for the mass murder he was foregoing his right to a trial.
Cruz repeatedly answered “yes, ma’am” to each of her questions and confirmed that he had discussed his plea form with his attorneys had not been coerced into signing the document.
In a separate hearing last Friday, Cruz had pleaded guilty to battery and other charges related to a November 2018 jail fight with a sheriff’s deputy.
One by one, the judge read out the names of those slain or wounded during the Feb. 14, 2018, killing spree at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where Cruz had studied before being expelled for disciplinary reasons.
Family members of the victims who attended the hearing could be heard sobbing after the names of their loved ones were read aloud.
Cruz had earlier confessed to the Valentine’s Day massacre, in which 14 students and three teachers were murdered, and his defense attorneys had sought to reach a deal with prosecutors to avert the death penalty.
But the state attorney’s office in Broward County, where the school is located, says it has not entered into negotiations with Cruz’s defense team and will indeed seek capital punishment.
It will now be up to a jury to recommend either life in prison or execution.
Anthony Borges, a survivor of the mass shooting who attended the hearing with his father and was visibly nervous, told a local television channel that it was difficult to be there but was part of the process of closing that chapter of his life.
Borges, who confronted Cruz during the shooting and received multiple gunshot wounds, has recovered after a lengthy process in which he was placed in a medically induced coma and underwent several surgeries, including one to remove a portion of his small intestine. EFE