Two months ago, nineteen-year-old Nikolas Cruz walked into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and opened fire, killing seventeen people. On Wednesday, the shooter announced that he would donate all of his money to a charity—of his victims’ choosing.
“He would like [his] money donated to an organization that the victims’ family believes would be able to facilitate healing in our community,” Broward County defense attorney Melissa McNeill told the court, ”or an opportunity to educate our community about the issues that have ripened over the last four or five months.”
This announcement came from the courtroom, where a hearing on Cruz’s finances is currently taking place. Up to this point, Cruz has been legally represented by the Broward County Public Defender’s Office, who takes on the cases of people who cannot afford a legal team.
However, since Cruz’s case started in February, the court learned that he had $25,000 dollars yet to be collected from his late mother’s life insurance, in addition to a potential $800,000 in inheritance from his mother’s estate and $2,227 in shares of Microsoft stock.
Even if Cruz were to put this money into his legal defense, many lawyers would not want to take on a client who could not pay them in the future. Charged with seventeen counts of premeditated murder, Cruz has no prospects for future earnings. As it stands right now, being charged could land him in prison for life.
While Cruz’s defense team has indicated that he would plead guilty in exchange for a sentence of life in prison, the Broward State Attorney’s office has shown little interest in allowing that deal to happen.
According to prosecutor Shari Tate, “The state of Florida is not allowing Mr. Cruz to choose his own punishment for the murder of seventeen people.”