The public defender assigned to Parkland shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz filed a notice to withdraw from the case because he soon wonât qualify for free counsel.
Broward County Public Defender’s Office filed the notice late Wednesday because the 20-year-old suspect will soon be inheriting nearly a half-million dollars. Cruz will be receiving overÂ $432,000 from his late mother Lynda Cruzâs life insurance policy, who died in November 2017 from pneumonia.Â
Cruz is accused of shooting and killing seventeen students and staff members atÂ Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and injuring over a dozen others three months after his mother’s death.Â He is currently facing 17 counts of first-degree murder and 17 counts of attempted murder.
Howard Finkelstein, Cruzâs public defender from the Broward County Public Defenderâs office, along with his chief assistant Gordon Weekes, say they only learned about the life insurance policyÂ this week. Weekes told the Associated Press that âBy statute, we can only represent the poor and indigent. We are asking to withdraw from the case because the defendant is no longer poor.â
However, NBC News points out that Cruz may not see any of the money. Families of the Parkland victims are suing Cruz and it is possible they will claim the money with judges assigningÂ how it is divided. Cruz has also said heâd prefer the money to go to the victimsâ families.
Cruz is currently pleading not guilty, though Finkelstein has said Cruz would enter a guilty plea in exchange for life in prison. Prosecutors, on the other hand, are seeking the death penalty. Cruzâs trial is scheduled to begin in early 2020.