- Public defenders for Nikolas Cruz, the man charged in the shooting last year at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, have asked to be removed from his case after learning that he is set to receive more than $430,000 as part of a life-insurance inheritance from his mother.
- “By statute, we can only represent the poor and indigent,” Gordon Weekes, an assistant public defender, told The Associated Press. “We are asking to withdraw from the case because the defendant is no longer poor.”
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Nikolas Cruz, the 20-year-old man accused of killing 17 people last year at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, may soon be without his public defenders, who filed a motion in court on Wednesday requesting to be removed from the case.
The Broward County Public Defender’s Office’s reasoning: Cruz is set to receive more than $430,000 as part of a life-insurance inheritance from his mother, who died in November 2017. The money would disqualify him from free legal representation.
“By statute, we can only represent the poor and indigent,” Gordon Weekes, an assistant public defender, told The Associated Press. “We are asking to withdraw from the case because the defendant is no longer poor.”
The public defenders had said Cruz would plead guilty to get a life sentence and avoid the death penalty. The latest twist in Cruz’s case is likely to further stall the trial, which the judge had hoped would begin in January, according to the South Florida Sun Sentinel.
In response to the news, Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jaime was killed in the shooting, wrote on Facebook on Wednesday that his “blood is boiling,” according to the Sun Sentinel.
“This will only cause more delay,” he wrote. “I am furiously mad right now.”
It isn’t certain whether Cruz will ever actually see the insurance money, which some experts told the Sun Sentinel still wouldn’t be enough to cover the costs for a new defense attorney. Victims’ families, who have already sued him in civil court, may also claim that they should receive those funds.
Earlier this month, the State Attorney’s Office in Broward County released letters that Cruz wrote to a woman in the United Kingdom and to his brother in which he proposed marriage to the woman and expressed a desire to name his future children after guns.
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