Wearing an orange jail jumpsuit with shackles around his wrists and ankles, the confessed Florida school shooter said only "yes, ma'am" when addressed by Judge Kim Theresa Mollica, who ordered him held without bond.
At the hearing, Judge Kim Theresa Mollica reiterated the charges against the 19-year-old former student of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, which includes 17 counts of premeditated murder.
McNeill put a hand on Cruz's shoulder before telling reporters after the hearing that he was sad and remorseful.
"He's sad. He's mournful. He's remorseful. He is fully aware of what is going on, and he's just a broken human being," she said.
Cruz's defense team revealed that he was on suicide watch and that he understood the magnitude of his actions.
Many took to social media to voice their outrage at McNeill's words of defense for Cruz.
Am I the only one weirded out that Nikolas Cruz’s lawyer was patting his back and being “loving”? I mean... he killed people hun.— Catriona (@KittyLovesTrump) February 15, 2018
Nikolas Cruz’s lawyer just said that he’s “remorseful”. Screw that crap! He should have thought about that BEFORE he planned a massacre ??— Anname (@Anname5861) February 15, 2018
"Nikolas Cruz’s lawyer just said that he’s 'remorseful'. Screw that crap! He should have thought about that BEFORE he planned a massacre," one person said.
i am listening to the trial for nikolas cruz and, everything else aside, I just cant understand how his lawyer must feel. imagine coming home to your spouse and having to tell him that you have to defend the piece of shit that murdered 17 kids all because it’s your job like damn— caleb (@calebchalfin) February 16, 2018
"I just cant understand how his lawyer must feel. imagine coming home to your spouse and having to tell him that you have to defend the piece of s— that murdered 17 kids all because it’s your job," another said.
"He's just a broken human being." - Nikolas Cruz's lawyer.
Yeah, let's comfort him instead. Forget he killed 17 people. Twisted. #FloridaShooting— Ela Teodosio (@rebeladiaries) February 16, 2018
Another person called it "twisted."
Actual disgusting to hear that Nikolas Cruz is now saying he is “sad” and “remorseful” and that his lawyer was sympathising with him and putting her arm around him! He deserves to rot!— Rachel Gracie (@rachelgraciee) February 16, 2018
One said his defense is "disgusting."
Some posited that his feelings pale in comparison to the families who lost their children and siblings.
Put him in a room with all the parents who have just lost a son or daughter due to this cowardly bastards act ??— Kew ?? (@kew79) February 16, 2018
Sure the families of those he murdered feel so much better for knowing that— Nora Batty in da Hood #WATON #StopBrexit2018 (@noUKIPhere) February 16, 2018
17 families will never fully recover from this. I’m not sympathetic to the sad and remorseful killer.— Mike Saltzman (@mikesaltzman) February 16, 2018
Too late, he should of thought of that before going on his spree , there would be 17 souls alive now .— June Mynard (@kelwell16) February 16, 2018
Poor lad, feel terrible for him (sarcasm)— Jon Eastwood (@JeastwoodJon) February 16, 2018
Nikolas Cruz's lawyer describes him as a "deeply disturbed, emotionally broken" young man. That's a funny way of saying "terrorist".— Meow meow, I'm a Cow (@Stoneth) February 16, 2018
Before the hearing, an official with the public defender’s office described Cruz as a “deeply troubled child who has endured a lot of emotional trauma in a short period of time," the Sun-Sentinel reports. Among those potential tragedies may have been the death of Cruz's mother, who reportedly died from pneumonia in November.
But most people on social media weren't buying what the defense was selling, with one person arguing that "plenty of broken children ... turn their lives around."
There are plenty of broken children out there some of the turn their lives around and get on with it instead of wallowing in pity and blaming other's.— Hugh the Sheep (@hughthesheep) February 16, 2018
Another member of the defense team, Gordon Weeks, was brought to tears as he addressed reporters, telling them that Cruz "recognizes" what he has done and is "deeply sad."
"He is dealing with the shock of all this that's going on," Weeks said.
McNeill and Weeks said that Cruz suffers from autism, depression and has dealt with significant psychological problems, in addition to a lack of support system.
"When your brain is not fully developed, you don't know how to deal with these things," McNeil said. "That's the child I'm sitting across from."
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has said she is "certain" prosecutors will be seeking the death penalty for the teen shooter.
Cruz reportedly admitted to killing 17 people, according to the Associated Press.
Cruz went into the school "with a premeditated design, in that he went loaded with an AR-15 rifle. He had additional ammunition with him… and shot 17 individuals who later died as a result of the gunshot wounds and then he fled the scene," the prosecution said during the hearing Thursday.
"I find probable cause. I further find the proof of guilt to be evident or the presumption great, therefore Mr. Cruz, you’re going to be held without bond until further order of the court. This order is without prejudice," Mollica said.