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A Look at the Case against the Accused Florida Shooter


The tragedy that unfolded at one high school in Florida on February 14th left 17 dead and many others injured. While many are focused on how we prevent needless violence like this in the future, below, we provide some background on how the trial against accused shooter and criminal defendant Nikolas Cruz might unfold.

As more and more information is produced concerning Cruz’s past, rumors have circulated that he intends to plead guilty and accept a life sentence in place of the death penalty, which Florida still has. That being said, it is still early in the prosecution, and convicting Cruz will hinge on video and other evidence conclusively identifying him as the shooter that day.

Insanity Defense Would Be Difficult For Cruz

Although Cruz and his attorney have already released statements indicating that Cruz experiences remorse over what he did, some may be wondering if he will rely on the insanity defense in his trial.

The insanity defense presents its own challenges, such as not only admitting to the underlying crime, but also providing additional facts in order to excuse that crime.

In Florida and other states, all defendants are presumed to be sane for trial purposes, and the defense bears the burden of proving insanity to the jury via “clear and convincing evidence” (i.e. evidence which indicates that there is a firm belief—without any hesitation—that the defendant was insane).

Florida also relies on what’s known as the “M’ Naghten” test for determining whether the defendant was insane when the crime was committed: A jury can only find that the defendant was insane if they have a mental infirmity, disease or defect and, because of their condition, they either didn’t know what they were doing or what the consequences were, or they did not know that what they were doing was wrong.

This is a difficult bar to meet: if the defendant is aware that they are shooting people and that it will hurt them, they are likely able to understand the consequences of their actions. In addition, proving that they didn’t know the wrongfulness of the act is also difficult: a defendant simply thinking that what they did was morally right is not enough to meet the burden of the insanity defense. Similarly, simply getting caught up in the ‘heat of the moment’ is also not enough to meet this high bar.

The Very Best In Criminal Defense in Florida and Massachusetts

In general, studies have shown that criminal defendants are more likely to accept plea bargains for a life sentence in death penalty states like Florida.  Defendants are also more likely to accept plea deals if they do not work with effective criminal defense representation.

At The Baez Law Firm, we pride ourselves on taking on the hardest criminal defense cases and providing the very best in legal representation. Contact us today to find out more.


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