Public defender could be removed from case after news about Florida shooter changes the game

When the killer of innocent teens gets to have his day in court, taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for his public defender if he can afford his own.

A video monitor shows school shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz, left, with public defender Melisa McNeill, making an appearance before Judge Kim Theresa Mollica in Broward County Court, Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Cruz is accused of opening fire Wednesday at the school killing more than a dozen people and injuring several. (Susan Stocker/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP, Pool)

Florida mass murder suspect Nikolas Cruz and his younger brother Zachary could be inheriting $800.000 from the estate of their adoptive mother who died in November 2017.

According to court filings, Nikolas, 19 and Zachery, 18, are the sole beneficiaries of their adoptive mom who died from pneumonia without a will.

That means that Cruz would be able to afford his own private counsel as opposed to using a court-appointed public defender.

Broward County public defender Howard Finkelstein filed a motion on Tuesday to request that a judge conduct a “indigency determination” on Cruz after news of his inheritance surfaced, ABC News reported.

“It could result in us being removed from the case,” Finkelstein told ABC News. “The question here is, are there enough resources to pay for a lawyer?”

Nikolas’ adoptive mother, Lynda Cruz, died unexpectedly in November from health complications. While neither she nor her previously deceased husband left a will for Nikolas and Zachary a petition was filed in 2016 to get the proceedings underway.

Shortly before Lynda Cruz’s death, her attorney William Bromley petitioned the probate court in Dec. 2016 “to reopen and continue the administration of an estate wherein Nikolas Cruz may be a beneficiary,” ABC reported.

Rocxanne Deschamps, a family friend who took-in Nikolas and Zachary after Lynda died, filed court papers to become the administrator of the $800.000 estate one day after the shooting.

Deschamps still cares for Zachery, but Nikolas reportedly left her house weeks before the shooting over a dispute about keeping guns in the home. She stands to be paid a judge-approved administrative fee if she becomes administrator of the estate.

Nikolas told James and Kimberly Snead, who he lived with for three weeks prior to his massacre, that he believed Deschamps was trying to steal his money.

Finkelstein told ABC that this is a first for his career.

“We are never involved in probate matters,” Finkelstein said. “In the public defender’s office, nobody has ever come up to me and said, ‘Hey Howard, our client may be worth $800,000.'”


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