Much of the statement made to police by Parkland, Fla., shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz should be publicly released, a judge ruled Thursday.
In her order, Broward County Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer said large portions of the “non-confession” part of Cruz’s statement should be made available in 10 days, barring any appeal by the defendant.
Cruz is accused of killing 17 people in the Valentine’s Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, a city about 46 miles north of Miami.
Public Defender Howard Finkelstein said in an email that a decision on whether Cruz will puruse an appeal will be made after the defense team sees the final version of the statement after it is edited by prosecutors.
Media outlets sought release of the statement, arguing that Florida's broad public records law required it.
Cruz's attorneys wanted all of it suppressed, contending disclosure could jeopardize the 19-year-old suspect's right to a fair trial in such a high-profile case by unduly influencing potential jurors.
But Scherer sided with the media in her decision.
"While it is true that this case has gained vast and widespread media coverage, this fact alone does not demonstrate that closure of the statement is required," the judge wrote. "The fact that the instant matter may be considered high-profile does not in itself give the defendant the right to close the flow of information to the public."
"The fact that the instant matter may be considered high-profile does not in itself give the defendant the right to close the flow of information to the public."
Scherer ruled that the statement can be released only after specific redactions to both the video and the transcript that removes comments that appear to be Cruz's confession.
Under Florida law, the "substance of a confession" cannot be released before trial.
Cruz's lawyers argued that so much of the statement contained elements of a confession that the entire statement should be suppressed, in addition to their fair trial arguments.
Scherer said the news organizations' argument in favor of as much disclosure as possible was correct.
"Extensive details about the defendant, his history, his behavioral history, and his actions during and after this incident, have already been widely reported," she wrote. "Withholding the non-confession, non-exempt portions of his statement from the public will not prevent further coverage of these proceedings."
Cruz’s attorneys have also offered a guilty plea in return for a life sentence, but prosecutors are pursuing the death penalty.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.