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Nikolas Cruz, facing 17 charges of premeditated murder in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, appears in court for a status hearing in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Photo by Mike Stocker/Reuters

Florida school shooting suspect withdraws plea

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The lawyer for Florida school shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz has filed court papers saying he is withdrawing a preliminary not guilty plea and will enter no plea at all.

Assistant Public Defender Melisa McNeill said in the filing Thursday that Cruz “stands mute” before the court. She said the not guilty plea was entered prematurely, before a grand jury indicted Cruz on 17 murder and 17 attempted murder charges in the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

The public defender’s office has said Cruz would plead guilty if prosecutors do not pursue the death penalty, but no decision has been announced on that.

The next step will be an arraignment for Cruz, where a judge likely would enter a not guilty plea for him to keep the process moving.

READ MORE: Florida school shooting suspect indicted on 17 counts of first-degree murder

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