FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – There’s still no decision on whether public defenders will continue to represent confessed Marjory Stoneman Douglas High gunman Nikolas Cruz.
Cruz and his attorney’s appeared at an indigency hearing in Fort Lauderdale Wednesday afternoon where his public defender said he could be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The public defender’s office has represented Cruz since the massacre February 14th that left 17 dead.
The hearing was held to determine if taxpayers will continue to pick up the tab for his defense or if Cruz can afford a private lawyer.
Wearing an orange jumpsuit and surrounded by a dozen Broward County Sheriff’s Office deputies, Cruz looked down as his defense team addressed the court.
Broward public defender Howard Finkelstein pleaded with the court to wait until the probate case involving Cruz’s late mother’s estate concluded and Cruz’s net worth could be definitively determined.
Cruz faces lawsuits and there are claims against his late mother’s estate, which complicates the matter of his indigence, Finkelstein said.
Whatever his worth, Assistant public defender Melisa McNeill told the judge, Cruz would like any money he inherits to be given to the families of the victims who can use it to promote healing and education in the community.
“Let it go to those who have been hurt, period,” Howard Finkelstein told the court
So how much money does he have?
Cruz has an annuity that shows more than $3,333 was deposited into an account but it’s not clear how frequently the annuity pays, lawyers said.
If it’s an annual deposit, it won’t mean much, but if it’s a monthly payout, Nikolas Cruz and his brother, Zachary, could gain close to a million dollars over time, said Finkelstein
Zachary sat in the gallery during Wednesday’s hearing, and left court without commenting
Nikolas Cruz also has a bank account with $353 and receives dividends from about $2,200 in Microsoft stock, his lawyers said.
The bank account contained $12,310 in October, but Finkelstein said he isn’t sure where the remaining money went.
Cruz’s prison commissary account contains $669, the defense told the court.
Cruz also has a life insurance policy from his deceased mother worth $25,000 but his lawyers say they have not been able to obtain it
McNeill said it was against the policy of the public defender’s office to handle such financial matters for clients.
If Cruz has access only to the $25,000 check and the money in his accounts, then there is no way that would cover the expenses in a capital murder case, Finkelstein told the court.
“That amount of money would already be gone,” he said.
Finkelstein urged Judge Elizabeth Scherer to reset the hearing and not make a decision until they were able to determine the extent of Lynda Cruz’s estate.
Judge Scherer said she would make a decision on Cruz’s indigence before April 27, the next court date in the case.
Cruz has been indicted on 17 counts of first-degree murder and 17 counts of attempted murder.
During the hearing, Finkelstein reiterated his request to have Cruz plead guilty to all charges and be sentenced to consecutive life prison terms.
Assistant State attorney Shari Tate objected and said it’s not up to Cruz to determine his punishment but the people of Broward county