Judge denies public defender request to withdraw from Parkland shooting trial

Nikolas Jacob Cruz. Photo: Broward County Jail

May 4 (UPI) — A judge in Florida on Friday denied lawyers’ request to no longer defend confessed Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz because of his access to a $430,000 annuity left to him by his deceased mother.

Broward County Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer said the county’s public defender’s office must continue to represent Nikolas Cruz, 20, because he likely won’t be able to access the annuity. And even if he did, the funds wouldn’t be enough to cover the cost of a criminal defense attorney to represent him at trial.

She also noted that Cruz, who shares the $860,000 annuity with his brother, has yet to try to access his half of the money.

Cruz faces 17 counts of first-degree murder and 17 counts of attempted murder for a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2018.

“The Public Defender has not demonstrated that the defendant has access to, possession of and the ability to use the monies from the annuities at this time, the judge wrote.

The Broward Public Defender’s Office filed a notice last week seeking to withdraw from the case because legally it can defend only indigent defendants and with the annuity funds, Cruz would no longer qualify.

The Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale reported that families of some of the shooting victims have already won default judgments against Cruz, meaning money he inherits would likely go to them.

Cruz’s trial is expected to begin in 2020.


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