Suspected Florida shooter seeks to avoid death penalty by pleading guilty

Suspected Florida shooter seeks to avoid death penalty by pleading guilty
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A public defender representing the 19-year-old suspect in Wednesday's shooting at a Parkland, Fla., high school told reporters on Friday that his client would be willing to plead guilty in order to avoid the death penalty.

Broward County public defender Howard Finkelstein told ABC News that Nikolas Cruz, the former student charged in the shooting rampage that killed 17 people and wounded others, would plead guilty immediately in exchange for prosecutors to take the death penalty off the table.


"We have an opportunity to begin to put this behind us, to help the victims’ families as much as we can and begin to heal as a community,” Finkelstein said Friday evening.

“It comes down to one simple question: Does he live or does he die?” he added.

Finkelstein added that an insanity plea is "not a viable path," but said that blame for the shooting also lay with law enforcement and local government.

"This is not a case for lawyer games. Everybody knows what happened. There’s no question about whether he committed this act. And there’s no question of whether this is the most horrific act ever in Broward County — it is," the lawyer said.

"The school system failed. The mental health system failed. DCF [the Department of Children and Families], our social service agencies failed. Law enforcement failed because every red flag was present. And the FBI apparently failed. And the security measures for somebody to buy guns failed. Every single system was ignorant or willfully blind," Finkelstein said.

Cruz was charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder Thursday morning. A judge has ordered him held without bond.

President TrumpDonald TrumpFormer New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver dead at 77 Biden, Democrats losing ground with independent and suburban voters: poll Bipartisan Senate group discusses changes to election law MORE, who is in Florida and is expected to visit with victims, pointed to mental illness as a reason for the shooting.

“So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behavior. Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!” Trump tweeted Thursday.