Judge: Parkland gunman can’t afford private defense attorney

April 24 (UPI) — A Florida judge ruled Tuesday that a public defender will continue representing Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz.

Broward County Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer determined the 19-year-old Cruz cannot afford a private attorney, and would keep a public defender at taxpayers’ expense.

Cruz killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on Feb. 14 with an AR-15 assault rifle. He has offered to plead guilty if prosecutors agree not to seek the death penalty.

Scherer ruled that Cruz has only about $28,000 in assets and cannot access most of it immediately, NBC Miami reported.

Also Tuesday, a state commission charged with investigating “system failures” at MSD met for the first time in Broward County.

The panel will investigate the response to the shooting attack by law enforcement and school resource officers, as well as MSD’s school evaluation policies. They could produce a timeline of things that went wrong during the event and make recommendations for change.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott named Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri as the chairman of the commission. Other members include law enforcement, legal and education personnel and a mental health expert. The panel also includes three parents of students killed in the shooting.

Gualtieri said panel members would do their best to find answers.

“We’ve got some hard questions that need to be answered,” he said, promising the process will be fair and fact-based.

The panel is expected to issue its first report early next year, and then subsequent yearly reports until 2023.