Nikolas Cruz 'Stands Mute' at Arraignment, Judge Enters Not Guilty Plea on His Behalf

A judge entered a plea of not guilty on behalf of confessed gunman Nikolas Cruz, who "stood mute" on a 34-count indictment on Wednesday for his attack on students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Cruz appeared before Judge Elizabeth Scherer, who entered the not guilty plea after Cruz's defense attorney said the teen was standing mute to the charges — meaning he declined to enter a plea.

The next court date in Cruz's case was set for Friday, April 27.

Cruz was arraigned on the same day students across the country walked out of school to demand stricter gun laws because of the Parkland killings

Cruz's defense attorney reiterated to the judge and prosecutors that Cruz is willing to plead guilty to all 34 counts if the death penalty is waived.

The 19-year-old former student's plea comes after he admitted to the crime while in police custody. According to the Associated Press, a police report states Cruz confessed that he "began shooting students that he saw in the hallways and on school grounds."

Florida State Attorney Michael J. Satz filed on Tuesday a notice of intent to seek the death penalty against Cruz, who has been formally charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder in the first degree and 17 counts of attempted murder in the first degree for his confessed massacre on Feb. 14 at the Parkland, Florida, high school.

In the documents, prosecutors call the mass shooting "especially heinous, atrocious or cruel," as well as "cold, calculated and premeditated." Also in the documents obtained by TMZ, prosecutors say they want to choose the mental health expert who will evaluate Cruz should the defense raise his mental health as a mitigating factor in the crime.

Broward County Public Defender Howard Finkelstein, whose office is representing Cruz, has said there were many warning signs that Cruz was mentally unstable and potentially violent ahead of his confessed attack on his former high school, and that the death penalty might be going too far.

Finkelstein previously said Cruz would plead guilty if prosecutors opted not to seek the death penalty, though the only other penalty option for Cruz is life in prison with no possibility of parole.

"He committed this crime. Everybody saw it. Everybody knows it. He's admitted it," Finkelstein told the Miami Herald. "The crime is horrific and beyond words. This is going to come down to one issue — does he live, or does he die?"

Despite the action by prosecutors Tuesday, a plea deal could still be reached in Cruz's case to avoid the death penalty. Florida uses lethal injection to execute prisoners.

Cruz was captured by police roughly two hours after his attack on students and staff at his former Florida high school on Valentine's Day after he triggered a fire alarm and sprayed bullets on people as they entered the hallways. He was found at a residence near the school after he abandoned his weapons and blended in with students to flee the scene.


He has been held at Broward County Jail since Feb. 15 and will remain there throughout court proceedings.