Parkland killer Nikolas Cruz will plead guilty to 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder rather than going to a full trial, according to a report.
The shooter’s defense team said that Cruz would admit the killings in exchange for a sentence of life without parole – if prosecutors declined to seek the death penalty, WSVN reports.
Prosecutors had previously rejected that offer, saying this case deserves a death sentence.
The Public Defender’s Office told WSVN that they would ‘neither confirm nor deny’ that Cruz would plead guilty
The outlet said Cruz’s attorneys will announce the plea on Friday.
A guilty plea would mean court proceedings would move straight to the penalty phase.
Cruz, then-19, burst into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on 14 February 2018, armed with an AR-15 rifle, ‘multiple magazines’ and smoke grenades.
He killed 14 students and three staff members, and wounded 17 more people.
Cruz is believed to have set off fire alarms to draw people out into the halls shortly after 2pm before he opened fire – and then managed to evade police by pretending to be a student running for cover. He was taken into custody an hour later.
Nikolas Cruz, now 23, pictured in court on October 6. In 2018, the then-19-year-old burst into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School with an AR-15 rifle, ‘multiple magazines’ and smoke grenades killing 14 students and three staff members and wounding 17 more people
Cruz is believed to have set off fire alarms to draw people out into the halls shortly after 2pm before he opened fire – and then managed to evade police by pretending to be a student running for cover. He was taken into custody an hour later. Pictured are students evacuating the Parkland high school after the deadly attack
WSVN reported that Cruz will also plead guilty to battering a Broward County Jail guard back in November 2018.
Surveillance footage of the incident shows Cruz rushing up to punch Sergeant Raymond Beltran in a minute-long brawl that ended with the 130-pound inmate pinned to the floor.
If Cruz pleads guilty for the November 2018 battery, this trial would also move to the penalty phase.
Prosecutors could argue that the attack is an aggravating factor when they seek his execution during the penalty phase of the Parkland trial.
Earlier this month, Cruz wept in Broward County Court when Circuit Court Judge Elizabeth Scherer ruled that he could not draw with colored pencils in the jury selection process of the battery trial, for which he could be sentenced an additional 15 years.
Gabe Ermine, left, and Jaclyn Broudy stand with their client, Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz, as prospective jurors enter the courtroom in Fort Lauderdale on October 5
In this file photo, Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz speaks with public defender Melisa McNeill before a pretrial hearing at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale
Mourners visit a makeshift memorial outside of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on the two-year anniversary of the Parkland shooting where Nikolas Cruz killed 17 victims
On Wednesday, the jury selection process continued in the prison attack trial, as attorneys struggled to find prospective jurors who could try Cruz impartially. But in the first group of 32, one prospect cried after seeing Cruz in the courtroom.
It was the third time that has happened in two days, NBC South Florida reports.
The sight appeared to upset Cruz, and one of his attorneys could be seen handing him some colored pencils and a page from a coloring book featuring the Pokémon character Pikachu, according to Andrew Lofholm, a reporter for CBS 12.
After that group left, NBC South Florida reports, prosecutor Maria Schneider accused Cruz’s attorneys of giving him the colored pencils to make him appear sympathetic.
‘They are doing [that] so the jury perceives that he is a child, that his mentality is somehow challenged,’ she argued to Circuit Court Judge Elizabeth Scherer.
One of Cruz’s attorneys could be seen handing him some colored pencils and a page from a coloring book featuring the Pokémon character Pikachu on October 6
Cruz’s lead attorney, Gabe Ermine, though, told Scherer that was not their intention – they just wanted to calm him down, as he spent most of the morning glancing downwards. Ermine also tried to shield Cruz from view with a laptop screen.
‘I am trying to keep him calm,’ Ermine said. ‘We are not doing this for any nefarious reasons.’ He also pointed out that Cruz had not actually drawn anything, NBC reports.
Cruz, who had a troubled past, was a member of a white nationalist group before he carried out the deadly shooting, and bought the AR-15 rifle within that year. He had also recently suffered the loss of his adoptive mother.
Experts suggest he may also be suffering from fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, a congenital condition which causes development and behavioral issues, low IQ and poor reasoning and judgment skills.
Stoneman Douglas students revealed they were scared of the gun obsessed 19-year-old who would boast about hurting animals and would take knives and bullets into school. His former classmates say they always suspected he was capable of carrying out such a heinous crime. Here, students are pictured evacuating on February 14, 2018
Stoneman Douglas students revealed they were scared of the gun obsessed 19-year-old who would boast about hurting animals and would take knives and bullets into school. His former classmates say they always suspected he was capable of carrying out such a heinous crime.
It also appears that the FBI missed out on an opportunity to intervene before the shooting, when a bail bondsman in Mississippi last year alerted the feds about an alarming online message Cruz wrote saying he was ‘going to be a professional school shooter’.
Cruz, who stopped getting mental health treatment about a year before the mass-shooting, had been expelled from the school where he carried out the shooting after fighting with his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend.