United States: Perpetrator of Parkland school shooting pleads guilty

The young man Nikolas Cruz pleaded guilty this Wednesday to killing 17 people on February 14, 2018 and injuring 17 others in a high school in Parkland (Florida) which he entered firing indiscriminately with a semiautomatic rifle.

As his defense had anticipated last Friday, Cruz, 23 years old, accepted one by one the 34 charges during a hearing in which priority was given to the assistance of relatives of victims and survivors in a court in Fort Lauderdale, about 25 miles north of Miami.

In a hearing that was broadcast live on television channels, Judge Elizabeth Scherer repeatedly asked Cruz if he understood the step he was taking and that a guilty plea could carry the “maximum penalty, which is death.”

She was also emphatic in telling him that accepting the blame closed the possibility of holding a trial.

To all the questions Cruz answered “Yes ma’am”At a time when the judge asked him to review the guilty documents, he raised his glasses and answered affirmatively that they were the same ones discussed with his lawyers and that he had not been forced to sign them.

In the hearing last Friday, in which another criminal case was originally addressed against Cruz, the attack in November 2018 against a prison guard, the young man also pleaded guilty to that crime, which also represents an aggravating factor in the case of Parkland that can go to the death penalty at sentencing.

One by one the judge read the names of the victims of the 17 counts of premeditated murder and of the other 17 counts of attempted murder during the massacre at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas School, where he had studied but was expelled for misconduct.

The relatives of victims present in court burst into tears when they heard the names of their own.

After the massacre, which occurred on Valentine’s Day, Cruz confessed to the crime and the defense showed interest in his pleading guilty in exchange for the Prosecutor’s Office to stop asking for the death penalty.

However, the Broward County state attorney’s office, north of Miami, has also indicated since the massacre that it would seek capital punishment and has also clarified that it has not negotiated the matter with the defense.

The Broward state attorney’s office noted last Thursday that “There have been no plea negotiations with the prosecution” and “if he pleads guilty, there would still be a sentencing phase.”

Anthony Borges, one of the survivors of the shooting, who attended the hearing accompanied by his father and visibly nervous, told local channel 7 News that it is tough, but that it is part of the process to “close this chapter.”

Anthony Borges was one of the students who received multiple gunshot wounds from Nikolas Cruz. AFP / C. Khanna

Borges, who confronted Cruz in the middle of the shooting and received multiple gunshot wounds, recovered after a long process in which he had to be induced into a coma and undergo several surgeries, one of them to cut part of his intestines.



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