Faced with a massive criminal case against him and the possibility of the death penalty, mass shooter Nikolas Cruz can keep his taxpayer-funded defense team, a judge ruled this week.
That means the Broward Public Defender's Office will continue in its quest to keep the 19-year-old off Florida's Death Row for the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High that left 17 people dead, and 15 more wounded.
Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer filed her ruling in the court record on Monday — nearly two weeks after Cruz's lawyers said he had only $353.43 in the bank, $700 in a jail commissary account, plus $2,200 in Microsoft stock and some $20,000 in life-insurance money that he has yet to access.
His net worth would still be a drop in the bucket needed to pay for lawyers — and experts — to defend him in a case that lists 34 victims and will feature hundreds of witnesses and thousands of pieces of evidence.
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"In consideration of the specific facts of this case, the court finds that this is not a typical felony case, nor even a typical capital felony case," Scherer wrote in her four-page order. Scherer said she could revisit the ruling if he receives more inheritance money or other funds. Another court hearing in the case is scheduled for Friday.
Cruz, a troubled former student at Stoneman Douglas, was arrested soon after the Valentine’s Day rampage. Broward Public Defender Howard Finklestein has already said Cruz will plead guilty immediately — if prosecutors agree to waive the death penalty.