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Parkland shooter’s death penalty trial set to begin in January

Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz’s death penalty trial is set to begin in January 2020, according to a court order issued Thursday by Florida Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer.

Cruz is facing 34 counts of premeditated and attempted murder for the massacre of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day in 2018. Cruz did not make a plea, and instead Judge Scherer entered a not guilty plea on Cruz’s behalf.

The Broward state attorney is seeking the death penalty. Pretrial motions will be heard on January 13, and jury selection is set to begin on January 27, the court order states.

The question at trial is not about his guilt — Cruz has confessed to the crime — but about whether he receives the death penalty.

His defense team has offered a guilty plea in exchange for life in prison without the possibility of parole, but only if prosecutors take the death penalty off the table. Prosecutors have rejected the plea.

Cruz has been in jail since the shooting at his former school in February 2018. After he was taken into custody, he told a detective he had a “demon” in his head, according to a transcript. He said the voice told him to buy the AR-15 weapon and take an Uber to Stoneman Douglas the day of the shooting.

Cruz’s attorney described him in February as a “deeply disturbed, emotionally broken” young man.

In November, he allegedly tackled and repeatedly punched a jail guard, then took his stun gun in a fight, an arrest report shows.

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