Judge Enters Not Guilty Plea for Fla. School Shooting Suspect During Arraignment - NBC Connecticut
Parkland School Tragedy

Parkland School Tragedy

Continuing coverage of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Shooting

Judge Enters Not Guilty Plea for Fla. School Shooting Suspect During Arraignment

The latest court hearing comes one day after prosecutors in the case announced they will seek the death penalty against Nikolas Cruz in the case

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    Accused Gunman Nikolas Cruz Appears in Court

    NBC 6's Johnny Archer reports on the court appearance by accused Parkland gunman Nikolas Cruz.

    (Published Wednesday, March 14, 2018)

    On the one month anniversary of the deadliest school shooting in Florida history, the 19-year-old charged with killing 17 students and staff inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School appeared in a Broward County courtroom.

    Nikolas Cruz, who police say went into the Parkland school he once attended and opened fire on February 14th, was formally arraigned on charges of first degree murder and attempted murder for the 17 people who were killed and the 17 injured in the shooting.

    Cruz, surrounded by deputies and wearing an orange prison outfit, sat quietly with his head bowed throughout the hearing in the packed courtroom.

    His brother, Zachary Cruz, was among those in the courtroom, which included some family members of the victims.

    Cruz was indicted last week on all charges by a grand jury and had previously waived his right to appear at court hearings, but he appeared Wednesday in front of Judge Elizabeth Scherer.

    Cruz is "standing mute" in the case after withdrawing his not guilty plea last week. Scherer entered a plea of not guilty on his behalf on all 34 counts.

    Assistant Public Defender Melisa McNeill repeated that Cruz would plead guilty if prosecutors waived the death penalty, which they refused to do.

    Much of the hearing concerned whether Cruz has enough assets to pay a private lawyer rather than be represented at taxpayer expense by the public defender. McNeill told Scherer that Cruz may have as much as $37,000 combined in a bank account and life insurance proceeds from his mother's death last November. Cruz also has 24 shares of Microsoft stock and some other assets, McNeill said.

    "What this information means in terms of his net worth, I don't know," McNeill said. ""The court can make a determination once we do a more thorough review."

    But she added: "I don't think there's a private attorney in Florida that would take a 17-count first degree murder case" for $37,000.

    Scherer set an April 11 hearing on the assets issue.

    The latest court hearing comes one day after prosecutors in the case announced they will seek the death penalty against Cruz in the case.

    The office of Broward County State Attorney Michael Satz filed the formal notice of its intentions Tuesday. The action by prosecutors Tuesday does not necessarily mean a plea deal will not be reached.

    The only other penalty option for Cruz is life in prison with no possibility of parole.

    Broward County Public Defender Howard Finkelstein, whose office is representing Cruz, has said there were so many warning signs that Cruz was mentally unstable and potentially violent, and that the death penalty might be going too far.