Public Defender Asks to Drop Accused Parkland Shooter - NBC4 Washington
Parkland School Tragedy

Parkland School Tragedy

Marking One Year Since the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Shooting

Public Defender Asks to Drop Accused Parkland Shooter

Nikolas Cruz is set to receive more than $432,000 from an insurance policy, and under state law, the public defender can only represent defendants who cannot afford private attorneys

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    Public Defender Wants to Drop Parkland Shooting Suspect

    The public defenders representing the suspect in last year's Parkland high school massacre have made an unexpected request to withdraw from the case, saying the man will soon receive nearly a half million dollars from his late mother's life insurance policy.

    (Published Wednesday, April 24, 2019)

    The public defenders representing the suspect in the Parkland school massacre asked to withdraw from the case Wednesday, saying the defendant will soon receive nearly a half-million dollars in life insurance money and no longer qualify for free legal representation.

    The Broward County Public Defender's Office filed the unexpected notice late Wednesday, saying Nikolas Cruz is set to receive more than $432,000 shortly from his late mother's policy. Under state law, the public defender can only represent defendants who cannot afford private attorneys.

    Cruz, 20, is charged with 17 counts of first-degree murder for the Feb. 14, 2018, shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and 17 counts of attempted murder. He faces a possible death sentence.

    Public Defender Howard Finkelstein and his chief assistant, Gordon Weekes, said their office learned about the insurance policy this week. At a court hearing last year, their office had said the amount was likely to be about $30,000, too little to hire a private attorney.

    "By statute, we can only represent the poor and indigent," Weekes told The Associated Press by phone Wednesday. "We are asking to withdraw from the case because the defendant is no longer poor."

    But Cruz may not get the money. It is likely that the victims' families who are suing Cruz will claim the money should go to them and judges will have to determine who gets it. Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer, who is presiding over the criminal case, has not set a hearing on the public defenders' withdrawal motion.

    Prosecutors declined comment.