Cruz will inherit money from an insurance policy for his late mother, Lynda Cruz, who died of pneumonia in November 2017. The public defenders argued that state law bars them from representing a defendant who can afford private attorneys.
"It has come to the attention of undersigned counsel that Nikolas Cruz is a beneficiary in a MetLife life insurance policy and is entitled to half of a death benefit valued at $864,929.17 as of April 23, 2019," the Broward County Public Defender's Office said in court filing.
Cruz faces 17 counts of first-degree murder and 17 counts of attempted murder after he carried out a deadly school shooting in at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in Feb. 2018, within months of his mother’s death. Cruz confessed to the shooting and faces a possible death sentence, though a trial date has not been set.
The public defenders disclosed the possibility that Cruz would receive an insurance payout last year, but said at the time that it would likely amount to about $30,000. In the new filing, the defendants said neither they nor Cruz were aware the actual amount would be higher.
It’s unclear if Cruz would actually inherit the insurance policy. A judge could award the money to families of the shooting victims, some of whom have sued Cruz in civil court.
Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer has yet to set a hearing on the public defenders’ motion to withdraw from the case. The filing could delay Cruz’s case of proceeding to trial.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.