Cruz, 23, faces a minimum sentence of life imprisonment and a maximum of the death penalty, which will be decided by a jury at the upcoming sentencing stage of the trial. Prosecutors have said they plan to seek the death penalty.
In court, Cruz wore a collared shirt, black vest, face mask, and large, thick-framed glasses. He stood in the courtroom lecture and answered Judge Elizabeth Sherer’s series of questions with “yes ma’am” or “no ma’am” and assured her, “I know what’s going on.” He said he had depression and anxiety, and was experiencing anxiety in court, but said he was able to move on.
Cruz then responded “guilty” when each of the 34 charges were read to him. He later apologized to the victims in a brief speech.
He said, “I am very sorry for what I did, and I have to live with it every day. If I get a second chance, I will do everything in my power to try to help others.” “I’m doing this for you, and I don’t care if you don’t believe in me. And I love you, and I know you don’t believe me, but I have to live with it every day.” And it brings me nightmares and I can’t keep up with myself sometimes, but I try to move on because I know that’s what you guys want from me.
“I hate drugs, and I believe this country would do better if everyone stopped smoking marijuana and doing all these drugs and causing racism and violence on the streets,” he continued. “I’m sorry, and I can’t even watch TV anymore. And I’m trying my best to keep my composure, and I want you to know that I’m really sorry, and I hope you can give me a Will give a chance. Try to help others. I believe it’s your decision to decide where I go, and whether I live or die. Not the jury. I believe it’s your decision I’m sorry.”
The judge then asked Cruz if he understood that a jury, not the victims’ families, would have the legal power to decide his sentence, and he confirmed that he understood.
“What I meant was that I believed that they should have the right to let the victims themselves choose whether I should take life or die,” Cruz said.
He was then placed in handcuffs, given fingerprints and taken from the courtroom.
Jury selection in the penalty phase is scheduled for January 4.
A dozen law enforcement officers filled the courtroom Wednesday while the media, victims and the victims’ families watched the proceedings, some of whom were seen wiping their eyes as the judge gave Cruz details of the count and punishment.
Tony Montalto, the father of one of the killed students, Gina Montalto, called Cruz’s apology “ridiculous.”
“If he wanted to apologize, he shouldn’t have killed Gina and 16 other people that day,” Tony Montalto told Granthshala.
When asked about the possibility of the death penalty for Cruz, Montalto said, “We need to deprive these mass murderers of their notoriety… They were.
“I think he deserves as much chance as he gave my daughter and everyone else on February 14th of 2018.”
Prosecutors in court set the harrowing timeline of the shooting, which began when Cruz, 19, grabbed his AR-15-style rifle and magazines and boarded an Uber at his former high school. There, he took out his rifle and loaded it, and when a student passed by, Cruz warned. “You better leave here,” she told the student. “Something bad is about to happen.”
Prosecutors said Cruz then roamed the school halls and fired indiscriminately at various students and staff in the hallways and classrooms. He eventually dropped out of school and was taken into custody several miles away.
Changes to the petition were previewed last week
He pleaded guilty to attempted aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer, battery on a law enforcement officer, depriving an officer of the means of protection; and the use of a self-defense weapon against a law enforcement officer.
Scherer sentenced Cruz on Wednesday to 25 years in Florida state prison and 364 days in county jail in that case. The judge said Cruz would be credited for the 1,345 days he had already served.
According to the arrest report, the incident began when a prison officer asked Cruz not to drag his sandals to the ground while walking in the dayroom area.
According to the arrest report, Cruz repeatedly punched the guard, then took his stun gun into the fight. The report said that as soon as he wrestled on the device, the weapon was discharged. The report said that Cruz hit the sergeant several times, until the guards took control of the weapon, struck Cruz in the face and took him into custody.
Attorney David Brill said the trial’s settlement includes all the families of the 17 people who died, 16 of the 17 victims who were shot but survived, and 19 victims who suffered from PTSD or other illnesses.
Granthshala’s Dakin Andone, Jason Hanna and Amanda Watts contributed to this report.
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