WATCH LIVE: Nikolas Cruz expected to plead guilty in Parkland school massacre

Five days after Nikolas Cruz pleaded guilty to battery on a law enforcement officer, stemming from an attack on a Broward Sheriff’s Office jail guard, the confessed killer is now planning to plead guilty Wednesday to murder and attempted murder in connection with the Feb. 14, 2018, school shooting in Parkland.

Having Cruz plead guilty will allow his attorneys to argue during the penalty hearing that he took responsibility for his actions and their focus is to save him from the death sentence.

WATCH LIVE BELOW: Raw livestream inside courtroom. (Special on-air coverage can be viewed at the top of this page).

On Wednesday, Broward County Judge Elizabeth Scherer began the hearing by asking Cruz the same questions as last week regarding his physical and mental health, asking whether he has taken any illegal drugs or had been diagnosed with any illnesses.

Cruz responded that he had not taken any drugs and was experiencing some anxiety Wednesday, but has not been formally diagnosed with any mental illness.

Scherer then read through each of the 17 first-degree murder and 17 first-degree attempted murder charges, naming each victim Cruz killed or attempted to kill, and the minimum mandatory sentences for each charge.

The attempted murder charges each carry a minimum sentence of 25 years in prison and the murder charges each carry a minimum sentence of life of sentence.

Confessed Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz is expected to plead guilty to all charges during a hearing Wednesday.

Cruz is charged with 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder stemming from the Feb. 14, 2018, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre.

When the judge accepts his guilty plea, the case will transition to a penalty phase in the coming months.

A 12-person jury will recommend to the judge whether Cruz should be sent to prison for life or given the death penalty.

“I think killing him death by injection is too peaceful,” said Andrew Pollack, whose daughter Meadow, 16, was killed in the shooting. “Get him out of the jail and put him in the prison where he gets prison justice.”

Manuel Oliver, whose 17-year-old son, Joaquin “Guac” Oliver, was among the 17 killed in the school shooting, told Local 10 News last week that “not even the death penalty, would in any way balance what happened to my son.”

Oliver said he knows some of the victims’ families had prepared themselves for a trial, but said he was not mentally prepared for it.

Still, he said he believes “it’s time to speed it up a little bit. Every day is a new day that we suffer and we don’t see a final chapter in this.”

Fred Guttenberg, who lost his daughter Jaime, 14, in the shooting, tweeted Wednesday morning that while the news will be about Cruz’s plea on Wednesday, he will be focusing on his daughter’s life and this weekend he plans to honor her life through a virtual dance-a-thon.

Today, the murderer will plead guilty. The news will be about that, we will focus on Jaime’s life. This weekend, we have our long scheduled fundraiser to honor the life of Jaime. If you can’t join, please consider a donation at link below. Thank you.

— Fred Guttenberg (@fred_guttenberg) October 20, 2021

The fundraiser is being held by the Guttenberg’s foundation, Orange Ribbons for Jaime, which helps support causes important to their daughter, as well as causes “that deal with the way her life was tragically cut short.”

Legal analysts say prosecutors will likely use Friday’s guilty plea in the battery case as an aggravating factor when arguing for the death penalty.

“Look how he acts when he is in custody. So, it is not a good factor for the defense,” Mark Eiglarsh said.

Given the high profile case, Scherer is planning to screen thousands of prospective jurors for the sentencing phase.

Hearings are scheduled throughout November and December, with the goal to start testimony in January.

Ever since the shooting, Cruz’s attorneys have been offering to have their client plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence, but the lead prosecutor rejected that offer, saying that Cruz deserved the death sentence.

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