Florida school shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz appeared briefly in court Friday afternoon as his attorneys asked a judge to waive his right to a speedy trial while they continue compiling evidence.
Judge Elizabeth Scherer of Broward County Circuit Court agreed, setting another court date for May 25, but giving no indication of an initial trial date. Typically, a felony defendant must go to trial within 175 days of arrest, unless he waives his right to a speedy trial.
Cruz, 19, was in an orange jumpsuit in court and did not speak, instead mostly looking down. He is charged with 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
His lawyer says Cruz would plead guilty if guaranteed a sentence of life without parole, but prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
Broward County Public Defender Howard Finkelstein has said there were many warning signs that Cruz was mentally unstable and potentially violent, and that the death penalty might be going too far.
“Because that’s what this case is about. Not, did he do it? Not, should he go free? Should he live or should he die,” Finkelstein said in February.
Meanwhile, a student hailed as a hero for saving the lives of 20 students by trying to close and lock a classroom door during the attack filed a lawsuit this month against Cruz, the family that took Cruz in, the estate of Cruz’s deceased mother and several mental heath facilities.
Anthony Borges, 15, was shot five times. Weeks after the rampage, he fell critically ill of an intestinal infection, but has improved.
Three months before the shooting, after Cruz’s mother died, he moved in with James and Kimberly Snead. James Snead asserted that the family knew that Cruz had guns and were OK with it. He also said their home had a gun safe, and Snead believed that he possessed the only key.
Borges’ lawsuit, however, claims that Cruz “had access to one or more of his guns while residing at the Sneads’ residence; and specifically, the AR-15 rifle that he subsequently used in committing the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.”
The Snead family’s attorney said in response that his clients are “blameless,” and “only guilty of opening their home up to a troubled young man whose mother just died so he had a place to live.”
The shooting at Parkland has renewed calls for national gun reform, and sparked walkouts and rallies that have attracted tens of thousands of predominantly young people.
SOURCE: The Associated Press, Matthew Vann