Shackled and wearing a red jump suit, school shooter Nikolas Cruz made his first live appearance in a Broward County circuit court five days after he walked into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High and fatally shot 17 people in the worst school shooting in Florida history.
Cruz, a slightly built teen, did not say anything and never looked up at the crowd from his seat at the defense table. It was a tense atmosphere — Cruz was surrounded by Broward Sheriff’s deputies as media members and other lawyers watched from the gallery.
He is facing 17 counts of premeditated murder and could face the death penalty. The Broward County Public Defender’s Office, which is representing Cruz, has already said he will admit guilt and is hoping prosecutors waive execution as punishment.
After his arrest last week, Cruz made a first court appearance via closed-circuit television from a detention facility. He was held with no bond.
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The hearing Monday revolved around a court document Cruz’s attorneys filed under seal late Friday before another judge. The Broward County Public Defender’s Office on Monday morning asked that the motion filed with the court “be stricken” from the record because what the office was seeking “was moot.”
Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer, at an afternoon hearing, ruled that the motion dealt with a “limited” issue involving the defense team’s “access” to their client. Prosecutors said they would seek to unseal the record.
A lawyer representing the media tried to participate in the hearing but Broward deputies refused to allow her to approach the court or speak.
Gordon Weekes, Broward’s chief assistant public defender, refused to speak about the defense’s court filings or his client. He said Monday’s court hearing was not supposed to happen.
“Our goal is to give the community an opportunity to grieve,” Weekes said.