Confessed Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz is withdrawing his preliminary not guilty plea and instead will enter no plea at all, his lawyer said in court papers.
Assistant Public Defender Melisa McNeill said in the papers filed Thursday that Cruz, 19, “stands mute” before the court, and that the not guilty plea was entered “prematurely.”
On Wednesday, Cruz was formally indicted on 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the deadly Feb. 14 shooting rampage at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that left 17 people dead.
Cruz’s public defender has said he’ll plead guilty if prosecutors take the death penalty off the table, which would mean life in prison.
Broward County Public Defender Howard Finkelstein, whose office is representing Cruz, said: “We are not saying he is ‘not guilty,’ but we can’t plead ‘guilty’ while death is still on the table.”
“Pleading ‘not guilty,’ even though it is form and process kicking off the legal process, just seemed wrong in this case, a legal fiction that could bring unnecessary pain to the victims’ families,” Finkelstein continued.