Cruz is facing 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder. Cruz was 19 at the time of the shooting and he used a semiautomatic rifle, purchased legally, to kill 14 students and three faculty members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Seventeen people were wounded in the attack.
Lawyers for Cruz announced the plan to change his plea to guilty in court on Friday, October 15th (Cruz is also facing a separate charge related to a fight with a guard in jail, which he will also plead guilty to). The judge overseeing the case said she would schedule a hearing for next Wednesday, October 20th, for Cruz to formally enter his plea.
A lawyer for Cruz did not immediately return Rolling Stone’s request for comment.
Despite the change to a guilty plea, it does not appear that Cruz has reached a plea deal with prosecutors. In a statement released Thursday night, October 14th, a spokesperson for the Broward County State Attorney’s Office said, “There have been no plea negotiations with the prosecution. If he pleads guilty, there would still be a penalty phase.“
Cruz’s lawyers are still hoping to secure life in prison without parole, although prosecutors have been angling for the death penalty from the start.
The Parkland shooting, which was one of the deadliest school shootings in American history, notably launched a large-scale protest movement, largely led by Marjory Stoneman Douglas survivors and the parents of victims. Just over a month after the shooting, students staged a massive protest in Washington, D.C., March for Our Lives, with similar events popping up around the U.S.
March for Our Lives, now an advocacy group fighting for stricter gun safety laws, said of the guilty plea in a statement: “What is clear is that gun violence is a systemic crisis and a uniquely American epidemic. The shooter’s deadly actions are part of a long string of gun violence that is ripping at the very heart of our nation, and kills people and destroys communities daily. There is no place in this country where you can go without fear of being shot. This is an emergency. It is a violent epidemic that must be addressed. A single guilty plea does not bring closure as long as it is still possible for another person anywhere in this country to be murdered by a gun at school, in a place of worship, or in their very own home. A guilty plea will not erase the past, and it will not bring us peace. It has been nearly four years since the shooting. We are appalled and disgusted that policymakers continue to waffle and play games, rather than do what needs to be done to prevent any more gun deaths. We are not at peace, we are as angry and determined as ever.”