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Parkland shooter pleads guilty for assault on jail guard, faces death penalty over 2018 shooting

Photo of the Parkland school shooter in court
Wilkine Brutus
/
WLRN News
The Parkland school shooter in court Friday, Oct. 15, 2021

The confessed Parkland school shooter waived his constitutional rights in a Broward court today to enter a plea agreement after he was accused of assaulting a Broward Sheriff's Office sergeant in jail, several months after the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas school shooting.

"I plead guilty," he said, in front of Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer.

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The confessed shooter pleaded guilty to all four criminal counts of assault on a law enforcement officer, including attempted aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.

He is being tried separately from the 17 counts of murder that he faces. According to his defense lawyers, the shooter will plead guilty next Wednesday to killing 17 students and staff members and wounding 17 more people.

Scherer asked Nikolas Cruz several questions about his cognitive abilities before accepting his guilty plea.

She asked Cruz whether he had signed documents on his own free will and whether he he continues to take medication for any mental illness, to which he replied that he had stopped taking medication for depression and other medical issues more than a year ago.

The change in Cruz's plea next week would spare relatives and survivors from the stress and trauma of a long, public criminal trial. Instead of going to trial, the case would enter the penalty phase, where a jury of 12 people would decide if he receives life in prison or the the death penalty.

Under Florida law, the death penalty requires a jury to be unanimous in their decision.

The hallway outside of the courtroom was heavily guarded with police officers, but it was relatively empty, with no protestors or advocacy groups.

The Dworet family was among the people gathered just outside of the courtroom. Mitch and Annika Dworet are the parents of Nicholas Dworet, one the students who was shot and killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas in 2018. Their other son, Alexander, was shot but survived.

Nicholas Dworet was a swimmer who was committed to the University of Indianapolis. Mitch said the court proceedings, which have lasted several years, are “grueling.”

They’ve been doing a number of self-care activities like meditation and going to the beach — all in an effort to keep their spirits high.

Both parents believe the death penalty is the appropriate justice.

“We would like to see the death penalty, absolutely,“ said Mitch Dworet. “No doubt in our minds.”