A hearing will be held Wednesday to determine whether Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz can afford to hire his own attorneys so taxpayers can stop paying for his public defender.
Cruz killed 17 students and faculty at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on February 14 in one of the deadliest mass shootings in the US.
Before the massacre, Cruz told a family he was living with that he was set to inherit $800,000 from his deceased parents, most of which would come when he turned 22.
Even if he gets access to the money several years from now, the Broward County public defender’s office, which is representing him, could still get reimbursed.
Under Florida law, a public defender can charge a client even after the case is over, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Scott Silverman told the Miami Herald.
“The public is still protected if he comes into money at some later time. The public defenders would be reimbursed the cost of their services,” said Silverman, a retired judge who is not involved in the case.
If Cruz can access the money, the judge may compel him to get his own attorney instead of using the public defender. Victims’ attorneys are also hoping to go after any assets available to him.
Prosecutors to seek death penalty
Last month, a grand jury indicted Cruz on 17 counts of premeditated murder in the first degree and 17 counts of attempted murder in the first degree.
He’s been held without bail in a Broward County jail, and appeared by video during his initial court appearance. The indigence hearing to decide whether taxpayers should stop paying for his defense team will be held in the county.
Prosecutors have said they will seek the death penalty. They listed several factors, including that Cruz knowingly created a risk of death for many people and the shooting was “especially heinous, atrocious or cruel.”
Cruz’s defense team has said there is no question he did it, and he’s willing to plead guilty to avoid the death penalty.
Last month, his defense attorney told the judge that the teen was standing mute to the charges — meaning he was declining to enter a plea. A judge entered a plea of not guilty on his behalf.
The 19-year-old confessed to being the gunman, court documents show. Police arrested him shortly after the massacre.