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.
Cruz, 19, would instead have a life sentence, said Broward County public defender Howard Finkelstein.
Finkelstein told ABC News in a detailed phone interview that his decision is based on the reality that the facts are not in question and that Cruz’s alleged crimes occurred after an apparent series of breakdowns of systems like law enforcement, social services and education.
Finkelstein said he has not yet notified prosecutors of his offer but plans to this weekend.
A trial would serve no purpose but to prolong the inevitable instead of allowing the community to start the process of healing, Finkelstein said.
“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.
“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 Trump, 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.
From ABC News
The FBI said today proper protocol was not followed in following up on a tip about Cruz.
A person close to Cruz called an FBI tip line on Jan. 5 with information about Cruz’s desire to kill people, erratic behavior, disturbing social media posts, as well as the potential of him conducting a school shooting, according to an FBI statement.
“We have determined that these protocols were not followed for the information received by the PAL on January 5. The information was not provided to the Miami field office, and no further investigation was conducted at that time,” the FBI said in a statement today.
FBI director Christopher Wray said the agency is still investigating and regrets any additional pain the information could cause to victims.