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The South Florida Roundup

Next steps in the Parkland shooter case, and the upcoming primary for a U.S. congressional seat


The confessed Parkland school shooter pleaded guilty this week. He admitted to 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder.

This came less than a week after his defense attorneys told the judge he would change his plea.

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During the hearing Wednesday, the shooter gave a rambling statement, lasting less than a minute. He said he was very sorry for what he did.

It was an emotional day in court, coming three and a half years after the school shooting.

Tom Hoyer and his wife, Gena lost their son, Luke Hoyer. Tom Hoyer spoke with WLRN after the hearing.

"When he said he wanted to speak, that was really an ugly surprise for us because, there's nothing he can say that's going to change anything that he did,” Tom Hoyer said.

Cruz’s guilty plea means prosecutors do not have to convince a jury that he committed the crimes. However, his fate still will be up to a Broward County jury. He could be sentenced to death.

Rafael Olmeda is a reporter for the South Florida Sun Sentinel, covering Broward County criminal and civil courts. He has been following the Cruz case closely over the last few years.

“It could almost be argued that what Nicholas Cruz did on Wednesday was really just skip the formalities, and try to get on to the heart of this case where we don't know the outcome,” said Olmeda. “And that is, of course, does he live out the rest of his natural life in prison, or does he live the rest of his cut short life in prison?”

Stephen Harper, an emeritus professor at the Florida International University College of Law teaches a course on the death penalty and is the supervising attorney in the death penalty clinic. He said that in order for Cruz to receive the death penalty, all jurors need to agree to the sentence.

“If one juror disagrees, then it's automatically life,” said Harper. “The judge can't change that kind of verdict.”

Jury selection for the case is set to begin in January.

20th U.S. Congressional District Primary

The primary election to pick the party nominees for a South Florida congressional seat will take place Nov. 2.

The winners from both parties will go on to a special election in January to fill the seat for the U.S. 20th Congressional District to replace longtime U.S. Rep Alcee Hastings, who died in April.

Democrats have about a dozen candidates vying for the party’s nomination.

Palm Beach Post politics and growth editor Antonio Fins said the Democratic primary has one of the most politically diverse pools of candidates he has seen in a long time, with state representatives, Broward County commissioners, and even a state senator.

The district has been a democratic stronghold for at least three decades, and Fins said Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives are watching the race closely.

“In the House of Representatives, the Democrats are in control, but they have a really slim majority and their own,” said Fins. “That majority is kind of divided between these more centrist moderate Democrats and progressives that are far more to the left — so the question is, 'who will win this seat here? Will there be another more moderate centrist vote? Or will it be a more progressive liberal vote?'”

Early voting for the primary election begins Oct. 23 and will end Oct. 31.

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Andrea Perdomo is a producer for WLRN News.