The suspect in the south Florida high school shooting will plead guilty in the massacre if the death penalty is taken off the table, the public defender's office said Friday.
Nikolas Cruz, 19, admitted he was behind the 17 killings inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. His lawyers at the public defender's office say he is deeply troubled and remorseful over the shooting.
"I am overwhelmingly saddened that every system failed. The school system, the mental heath system, DCF, law enforcement and the FBI," said Broward County Public Defender Howard Finkelstein, whose office is representing Cruz. "Because we failed to stop it, and we could have, we should not kill the person who behaved as we feared but ignored."
Cruz was charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder. Finkelstein said he is unsure if prosecutors will agree to the idea of pulling the death penalty off the table.
"I hope" they will, he said. "No road map here."
Broward County State Attorney Michael Satz released a statement Saturday, explaining his office hasn't decided yet what sort of punishment they would push for but added "this certainly is the type of case the death penalty was designed for."
At Cruz's first appearance, Chief Assistant Public Defender Gordon Weekes told a judge the 19-year-old was a "broken child" who "has endured a lot of emotional trauma in a short period of time."
She added the downward spiral started with the death of his mother in November.
Cruz’s mother Lynda Cruz died of pneumonia on Nov. 1, neighbors, friends and family members said, according to the Sun Sentinel. Cruz and her husband, who died of a heart attack several years ago, adopted Nikolas and his biological brother, Zachary, after the couple moved from Long Island in New York to Broward County.
Finkelstein said whatever happens with Cruz's future one thing remains clear: this tragedy has left an irreparable wound on his community.
"In the 40 years I have been in this courthouse, I have seen a lot of murder and mayhem but nothing is even in the same universe as this," he said. "This devastation has caused a permanent wound in the victims' families and the community. All of us will be forever changed."