Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz appeared in court on Friday and waived his right to a speedy trial
Cruz sat mute at the defense lawyers’ table with his head bowed during the brief hearing in Fort Lauderdale.
Cruz waived his right to a speedy trial through his attorney Melisa McNeill. Broward County Judge Elizabeth Scherer scheduled the next hearing for 1:30 p.m. May 25.
No trial date has been set.
“I don’t want this case treading water,” Scherer said.
Cruz faces 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder. He killed 17 students and faculty at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on February 14 in one of the deadliest mass shootings in modern US history.
Cruz, 19, was arrested shortly after the shooting and has confessed to being the gunman, court documents show.
A judge entered a plea of not guilty on Cruz’s behalf when he was arraigned in March after his attorney told the judge the teen was standing mute to the charges, meaning he was declining to enter a plea.
Prosecutors had said they intended to seek the death penalty for Cruz, saying the shooting was “especially heinous, atrocious or cruel.”
Cruz’s defense team has said there is no question he did it, and he’s willing to plead guilty to avoid the death penalty.
Defense attorney Howard Finkelstein said he would prefer his client take a plea and serve 34 consecutive life sentences, one for each of the counts on which Cruz has been indicted.
The prosecution had expressed frustration after listening to the defense’s request.
“The state of Florida is not allowing Mr. Cruz to choose his own punishment,” Assistant State Attorney Shari Tate told the court at a previous hearing.
Scherer has received mail asking her to show mercy to Cruz. A three-page letter from a Minnesotan called the shooter “a vulnerable and disabled little boy inside a teenager’s body.”
More pieces of sympathetic mail from all over the United States and Europe have arrived at the county jail where Cruz is being held, according to the Broward County Public Defender’s Office.
Cruz appeared at a hearing on April 11 as a probate judge tried to determine whether taxpayers will pick up the tab for the teen’s defense or he can pay for his defense.