PARKLAND, Fla. – Some of the families of those killed in the Parkland school shooting say they had no idea a guilty plea was coming for confessed shooter Nikolas Cruz, but they said the defense team’s announcement Friday doesn’t surprise them.
During Friday’s status hearing, Cruz’s defense attorney told Broward County Judge Elizabeth Scherer that his client would be entering guilty pleas on all counts for the Feb. 14, 2018, mass shooting, as well as the Nov. 13 attack of a Broward Sheriff’s Office jail guard.
Cruz formally entered his guilty plea Friday for the jail guard attack, but he is expected to plead guilty for the Parkland shooting next Wednesday when his lead attorney in that case can be present.
“This guilty plea was important in order for us to be able to move forward to the next step,” said Lori Alhadeff, who lost her 14-year-old daughter Alyssa in the school shooting. “We have a long way to go.”
The family of Parkland victim, Nicholas Dworet, 17, went to Cruz’s hearing Friday and more families are expected to show up for next week’s hearing and possibly give impact statements before he is sentenced.
Some families reached by phone said they are holding off on commenting until after next week’s hearing.
I have received messages today asking me to comment on the breaking murder trial news. My only comment is to remember the victims. Remember Jaime. Rather than talk about the murderer, please join us on Oct 23rd to celebrate Jaime's life by signing up at https://t.co/nNPMmsRd7R pic.twitter.com/gFuWctxzp2— Fred Guttenberg (@fred_guttenberg) October 15, 2021
Cruz’s defense team previously said their client would plead guilty to all counts in the Parkland shooting in exchange for a life sentence.
Prosecutors, however, are seeking the death penalty, as are many family members of the victims.
“Nothing, not even the death penalty, would in any way balance what happened to my son,” Manuel Oliver told Local 10 News on Thursday.
Oliver’s 17-year-old son, Joaquin “Guac” Oliver, was among the 17 killed in the school shooting.
Oliver said he knows some of the victims’ families had prepared themselves for a trial, but said he was not mentally prepared for it.
“I’m pretty sure it would not be comfortable. I don’t know if I could hold myself from saying anything or doing anything,” he said.
Oliver said Friday that, “I think it’s time to speed it up a little bit. Every day is a new day that we suffer and we don’t see a final chapter in this.”
If Cruz follows through with a guilty plea next week, a penalty phase would then be held in which a jury would decide whether to recommend to the judge that he be sentenced to life in prison or death.
“Not living a life in prison is very important for me and my family,” Alhadeff said. “To see that happens and that he is executed and killed.”