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Judge wants public defenders for Nikolas Cruz to proceed for now

Broward County judge says she'll consider arguments before making decision

Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz stares at a television camera during a hearing, May 1, 2019, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz stares at a television camera during a hearing, May 1, 2019, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – A Broward County judge wants the public defenders representing Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz to proceed with the case until she makes a decision on whether they should be removed.

Broward County public defenders argued Wednesday that Cruz stands to inherit more than $432,000 from his late mother's life insurance policy and therefore can afford to hire a private attorney.

Prosecutors oppose such a move, saying any money likely will go through lawsuits to Cruz's surviving victims and the families of those killed.

Judge Elizabeth Scherer said she will make a decision at a later date.

"This is not a situation where there sounds like a conflict," she said. "This is a situation where we're determining assets."

Cruz is charged with killing 17 and wounding 17 others at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February 2018.

He's pleaded not guilty, but his attorneys said he would plead guilty for a life sentence. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Family members of some of the victims have expressed concern that changing attorneys would prolong justice for their loved ones.

"As far as I'm concerned, there's really no change in the status of his financial situation, and the idea of making us have to go through this any longer than necessary is really unbearable," Debbi Hixon told reporters after the hearing. "It's just, it's long enough. To have to start over, I can't even describe to you how that makes me feel."

Her husband, Chris Hixon, was among three faculty members killed in last year's massacre. He was the athletic director and wrestling coach at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

"It shouldn't even be about money," she said. "We know he did this. I don't even understand why it's taking this long."

Debbi Hixon's attorney said nothing in Cruz's financial status has changed between now and when public defenders first represented him.

"I don't want a penny from him. I don't want crap from him," Debbi Hixon said. "I just want him to die. I just want him to get the death penalty."