Mass murderer Nikolas Cruz’s defense team unexpectedly announced it was resting its case in the 23-year-old’s sentencing trial on Wednesday (Sept. 14).
Reports say that Cruz’s legal team previously announced plans to call approximately 80 witnesses to the stand. However, Cruz’s lead attorney, Melisa McNeill, said the defense was resting after only calling about 25 of those witnesses.
The judge was reportedly forced to put the trial on pause until Sept. 27 as the prosecution said it was unprepared to begin its rebuttal case. The bewildered prosecutors said they had expected about 40 more defense witnesses to take the stand.
Cruz’s defense team argued that their client had a troubled upbringing and suffered from behavioral and developmental issues. On Sept. 13, the last defense witness called to the stand was Dr. Kenneth Jones, a leading expert in fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. The doctor testified that Cruz meets the criteria for someone exposed to alcohol in the womb and suffers from consequential behavioral and developmental problems.
In October, Cruz changed his plea to guilty and addressed the court in a brief speech, apologizing to the 17 victims he murdered.
“I am very sorry for what I did, and I have to live with it every day. If I were to get a second chance, I would do everything in my power to try to help others,” Cruz said at the time.