Nikolas Cruz Facing Death Penalty in Parkland School Massacre

Posted at 11:17 AM, April 14, 2020 and last updated 2:08 PM, July 7, 2023

By Court TV Staff

If convicted, confessed Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz will face the death penalty for the murder of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre in 2018, the deadliest high school shooting in U.S. history.

His lawyers say Cruz is prepared to plead guilty in return for a life prison sentence, an offer Florida prosecutors rejected.


According to a defense motion from December 2019, there are at least 1000 witnesses identified by prosecutors, 4 million pages of evidence and thousands of photos, videos and social media posts.

The tragedy took place on Valentine’s Day of 2018. An active shooter terrorized students, sending them running for their lives. Inside the three-story high school, six-minutes of slaughter, as 34 students and staff were gunned down. Seventeen people lost their lives and seventeen more were injured.

Surveillance video and witness identification led to the arrest of then-19-year-old Nikolas Cruz.

Florida school shooting defendant Nikolas Cruz appears in Judge Elizabeth Scherer’s courtroom at the Broward Courthouse, Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The trial of Parkland school shooting defendant Nikolas Cruz was delayed Thursday until at least next summer, when he will face a death penalty case stemming from the February 2018 massacre that left 17 people dead. (Michael Laughlin/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP, Pool)

Cruz, a former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, had been expelled the year before for disciplinary reasons. But records indicate he was a troubled young man, long before the massacre.

40 days before the shooting, a woman who knew Cruz told the FBI he was collecting guns and ammunition and feared he was “going to slip into school and start shooting the place up,” according to an FBI tip-line transcript.

Cruz also reportedly researched mass shootings and posted threatening messages on the internet. Phone records and school surveillance video helped authorities piece together a timeline of what they say happened.

More than an hour after the shooting, Cruz was taken into custody nearby. During the many hours of questioning, Cruz informed detectives he hears voices in his head that tell him to “burn, kill, destroy.”

Cruz is charged with 17 counts of First-Degree Premeditated Murder and 17 counts of Attempted Murder. His trial is delayed until the summer of 2020. 


Court TV legal correspondent Chanley Painter contributed to this report.