Nikolas Cruz will likely face the death penalty after prosecutors filed a notice of intent to seek execution on Tuesday.
The office of Broward County State Attorney Michael Satz filed the formal notice of its intent to seek the death sentence, ahead of a formal arraignment scheduled on Wednesday.
According to CNN, the notice cited multiple aggravating factors under Florida law that affected its decision to seek the death penalty for the teenage gunman.
Apparently, prosecutors believe that Nikolas Cruz “knowingly created a great risk of death” to many people and that the shooting was “especially heinous, atrocious or cruel.” They also added that he committed the attack in a “cold, calculated and premeditated manner.”
Shortly after the filing of the notice, Broward County Public Defender Howard Finkelstein repeated their offer for Nikolas Cruz to plead guilty if the death sentence is taken off the table.
Finkelstein reiterated that they still stand “ready to immediately plead guilty to 34 consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole.” In case they were not allowed to do so, Nikolas Cruz will “stand mute” to the charges, BBC reported.
The move appears to be the first step in a legal strategy that will keep him away from death row even if he is guilty of the charges.
And while Nikolas Cruz opted to stand mute, the outlet pointed out that it still has the same immediate effect as a not guilty plea. Apparently, Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer will most likely enter a not guilty plea on his behalf to keep the process moving.
The death sentence for the Florida school shooting suspect has already gained mixed reactions. While some were not in favor of the move, others expressed their agreement to the said penalty.
Florida Governor Rick Scott said in a statement that he is supporting the death penalty for Nikolas Cruz, adding that the state would hold the teenage gunman accountable “to the fullest extent of the law.”
Meanwhile, Melisa McNeil, one of the suspect’s public defender, previously reiterated that he suffers from psychological problems, depression, and autism, which could possibly have triggered the deadly attack.
Nikolas Cruz opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day, killing 14 students and three faculty members. He is now facing 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder — both in the first-degree.