A Broward County, Florida, grand jury on Wednesday indicted Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old charged with the school shooting rampage last month, on 34 counts of premeditated murder and attempted murder.
The volley of charges against Cruz came three weeks after the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that killed 17 students and faculty. The indictment also pushes forward a case that would be one of the state’s highest-profile prosecutions in recent memory. Cruz, whose attorneys have admitted his guilt, could ultimately face the death penalty.
The grand jury charged Cruz with 17 counts of premeditated murder in the first degree, according to the office of Michael Satz, the state attorney for Broward County. Cruz was also charged with 17 counts of attempted murder in the first degree, with these counts listing people who were wounded at Stoneman Douglas but escaped the massacre that day.
Howard Finkelstein, the Broward County public defender representing Cruz, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday about the indictment. In an interview with The Washington Post two days after the massacre, Finkelstein said the only question in the case is what punishment Cruz will ultimately face.
“Did he do it or not? He did it,” Finkelstein said. “It’s one of the most horrific crimes in the history of America. There’s only one question: Does he live or does he die?”
Finkelstein argued that because of all the missed red flags littering Cruz’s life – including repeated warnings to the FBI and local police that he could be capable of violence at a school – it would not be right for him to be executed, and he has offered to have Cruz plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence.
Satz, who will prosecute the case against Cruz, has said he will not announce whether his office will seek a death sentence until later in the process. In a statement after Finkelstein’s offer was made public, he called the rampage “the type of case the death penalty was designed for.” No decision has been made as of Wednesday, according to a spokeswoman for the prosecutor.
Satz’s office has otherwise remained silent about Finkelstein’s office and the case, which was the subject of testimony this week before the Broward County grand jury. A spokeswoman for Satz’s office declined to comment on the testimony earlier Wednesday, noting that any proceedings involving grand juries “are secret and confidential,” but an attorney for some witnesses confirmed that they testified Wednesday morning.
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