US: Nikolas Cruz trial: This is where things are a year later - PressFrom - US

USNikolas Cruz trial: This is where things are a year later

09:40  12 february  2019
09:40  12 february  2019 Source:

Trial set for man accused of killing Iowa student in 1979

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On February 14, 2018, a gunman opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, killing seventeen students and staff members and injuring seventeen others.

A Florida prosecutor said Tuesday that he would seek the death penalty against the man accused of killing 17 people last month at a high school in Parkland, moving the state closer to a rare trial for someone charged in a mass shooting.

Nikolas Cruz trial: This is where things are a year later© Pool/Getty Images North America/Getty Images FT. LAUDERDALE - FEBRUARY 19: Nikolas Cruz appears in court for a status hearing before Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer on February 19, 2018 in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Cruz is facing 17 charges of premeditated murder in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. (Photo by Mike Stocker-Pool/Getty Images)

A year after Nikolas Cruz massacred 17 people and injured 17 others at his former high school in Florida, the question is not whether he's guilty -- he's confessed on video. It's does he live or die?

His defense team has offered a guilty plea in exchange for life in prison without the possibility of parole -- but only if prosecutors take the death penalty off the table. Prosecutors have rejected the plea, meaning a lengthy trial is all but inevitable.

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Nikolas Cruz ’s guilty plea would spare his life and the community a lengthy trial . CreditOffice of the State Attorney Broward County. Later , though, he said that perhaps he would “try “ This is the most awful thing , not only that I’ve ever seen — that I’ve even imagined in some sick movie or imagination.

Nikolas Cruz stands charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder. The only thing abnormal was that he didn't get up for his adult GED class. " This is some 19- year -old that didn't want to get up and go to school that day, and (they) left it at that ." The family took Cruz in last year after his adoptive

If the case goes to trial, Cruz will join a short list of mass shooters who've faced their victims in court. Of the 10 deadliest shootings in recent US history, Cruz is the only one who was captured alive.

Here's the latest on his case:

The trial has not started yet

The case is on what's described as the "pretrial discovery" stage, says Broward Public Defender Howard Finkelstein, whose office is representing Cruz. He says the case is a long way from trial.

Some witnesses are giving statements

In this stage, Cruz's attorneys have been deposing dozens of witnesses to give oral statements under oath.

Such sessions happen behind closed doors and are only attended by attorneys, the court reporter and the victims' advocate, says Richard Hornsby, a criminal defense lawyer in Florida who is not involved in the case. Depositions are conducted in person by prosecutors and defense attorneys, and the defendant is not allowed to be present, he adds.

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Nikolas Cruz was arrested on February 14 after 17 people were gunned down in a brutal attack on When does Nikolas Cruz go on trial ? Cruz has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated How many school shootings have there been in the US this year ? What else do we know about the suspect?

- Florida school shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz told a detective that a demon in his head -- "the evil Cruz 's attorneys had wanted it suppressed, saying its disclosure could hinder his right to a fair trial . Cruz told Curcio he wanted to join the Army to be a Ranger but he failed the written exam "because I

"It is common for victims/accusers to be deposed. However, from a strategic standpoint, I could not imagine the defense attorneys deposing the survivors in this case without a good reason," Hornsby says.

The Broward County Clerk of Court's website lists deposition notices for mostly law enforcement witnesses.

It's the beginning of a long, arduous process

A death penalty case can take years to go to trial.

The process itself has three stages. The current pretrial stage, where the discovery is conducted; the guilt phase, where the trial is conducted; and if convicted as charged, the penalty phase where a jury determines whether to impose the death penalty or not, Hornsby says.

Death penalty cases are so staggering in scope, it can take at least two years for the case to go to trial, he says. The process involves painstakingly combing through graphic details of the shooting in court. No detail is too small, including the gunshots, autopsies and the killer's words.

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Death penalty trials involve an extensive process that painstakingly combs through graphic details of the shooting in Student leader Emma Gonzalez describes Cruz 's potential death penalty trial as a "good" thing . Cruz 's next court appearance is a status hearing Friday. Jurors face challenges, too.

PARKLAND, Fla. — A Florida social services agency conducted an in-home investigation of Nikolas Cruz after he exhibited troubling behavior nearly a year and a half before he shot and killed 17 people at his former high school in Florida, a state report shows.

"However, with the judge pushing the case hard and the passage of Marsy's Law last fall, I would not be surprised if this case makes it to trial early next fall," Hornsby says.

Marsy's Law expanded the rights of victims of crimes, including giving them the right to have a voice in prosecution issues.

Prosecutors have so far rejected a plea deal

Broward state prosecutors have not revealed much in recent months. But in the past, they've rejected the defense's offer of a guilty plea in exchange for a life sentence, paving the way for a lengthy trial.

While the prosecution did not respond to CNN's request for comments for this article, Michael Satz, Broward County's prosecutor, has previously said this is "certainly the type of case the death penalty was designed for." Assistant State Attorney Shari Tate has said Florida will not allow Cruz to "choose his own punishment for the murder of 17 people."

The defense does not want a trial

Cruz's defense team has made it clear it's not looking forward to a death penalty trial.

That's why Finkelstein is offering his client's guilty plea in exchange for 34 life sentences without parole. That would take the death penalty trial off the table and spare the victims from reliving the nightmare during testimony, he says.

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For the latest on the Florida school shooting , read our Thursday live updates. The man suspected of opening fire inside a Florida high school on Wednesday, killing at least 17 people, is a former student who had been expelled for disciplinary reasons, the authorities said.

Nikolas Cruz has been named as the shooter in the attack on high schoolers in Florida on Feb. 14. Here's what's been reported about him. Nikolas Cruz : 5 Things To Know About The 19- Year -Old Confirmed Gunman In FL School Shooting.

That would end the extensive legal process he says could last decades if there's an appeal. In some cases, death penalty trials are followed by lengthy appeals in which survivors return to court to face the killer all over again.

"A plea to 34 consecutive life sentences ends not only the above immediately but means no appeals," Finkelstein says. "We still stand ready to plead guilty to 34 consecutive life sentences."

Some survivors are conflicted

Some Marjory Stoneman Douglas students are conflicted on the possibility of a death penalty trial.

Student leader Emma Gonzalez describes Cruz's potential death penalty trial as a "good" thing. Another student, Cameron Kasky, has said he wants him to "rot forever" in prison instead.

Andrew Pollack, whose daughter, Meadow, was one of the people killed, has said he does not plan to attend any death trial hearings.

"I don't want to go through some lengthy trial that's going to be brutal. I want him to sit in a cell and rot for the rest of his life," Pollack says.

Even the jurors face challenges

In high-profile cases such as the Parkland shooting, there are no shortages of challenges for everyone involved. Even finding a jury will be an ordeal, Hornsby says.

"Since the state is seeking the death penalty, any juror who is opposed to the death penalty will automatically be stricken, meaning the selected jury panel will already be predisposed to consider the death penalty as a viable sentencing option before the first witness is called," he says.

Jury selection will likely take weeks because the trial may be moved to a different venue, according to Hornsby.

"You will have to find people who say they could be fair and impartial to the defendant given what they know about the Parkland murders," he says. "Good luck."

Florida's death penalty law requires the jury's decision to be unanimous. If one of the 12 jurors dissents, the defendant must be sentenced to life without parole.

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