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'I expect this case to go to trial in January,' judge tells lawyers for Nikolas Cruz

Parkland school shooter's attorney says defense 'will not be ready for trial'

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – A Broward County judge stood firm Wednesday with the scheduled start date for the trial of Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz.

"I expect this case to go to trial in January," Judge Elizabeth Scherer told defense attorneys during a hearing ahead of the 21-year-old's death penalty trial.

Scherer set jury selection to begin Jan. 27.

Defense attorneys argued that they don't have enough time to adequately prepare for trial.

"I can assure you that we will not be ready for trial on Jan. 27," assistant public defender Melisa McNeill said.

Cruz is charged with 17 counts of first-degree murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the Feb. 14, 2018, shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

His lawyers have maintained their client will plead guilty in exchange for a life prison sentence, but prosecutors are pursuing the death penalty.

Defense attorney Melisa McNeill listens to attorneys during a hearing for Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz in a Broward County courtroom, Oct. 23, 2019, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Defense attorney Melisa McNeill listens to attorneys during a hearing for Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz in a Broward County courtroom, Oct. 23, 2019, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

McNeill told Scherer the trial date is "unrealistic," but Scherer refused to change the date.

"This is not going to drag on for years and years and years," Scherer said.