Public defenders ask to withdraw from Parkland shooting suspect’s case

Public defenders representing the suspected Parkland high school shooter have asked to withdraw from the case, saying their 20-year-old client will soon inherit over $400,000 and no longer qualify for free legal representation. 

The Broward County Public Defender’s Office filed the notice late Wednesday, according to The Associated Press, saying that Nikolas Cruz will soon receive more than $432,000 from his late mother’s life insurance policy. Florida state law says public defenders can only represent defendants who cannot afford to hire private lawyers.

{mosads}Cruz is charged with 17 counts of first-degree murder and 17 counts of attempted murder over the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. Cruz, a former student at the school, could face the death penalty.

The public defender’s office told the AP it just learned about the insurance policy this week after saying last year that Cruz would only inherit roughly $30,000.

“By statute, we can only represent the poor and indigent,” public defender Howard Finkelstein said. “We are asking to withdraw from the case because the defendant is no longer poor.”

However, it is possible that Cruz may not see any of the inheritance, as families suing Cruz may claim the money should go to them.

Gordon Weeks, Finkelstein’s chief assistant, told the AP his office cannot help Cruz hire a private attorney or advise him on what to do with the inheritance. Cruz has said in the past he wants any money to go to the victims and their families. 

Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer, who is overseeing the criminal case, has yet to set a hearing on the public defenders’ withdrawal motion.

Tags Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting Parkland shooting public defenders

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