Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP, Pool
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Prosecutors in the case of Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz are asking for an investigation after a juror said she felt threatened by another member of the jury during deliberations that took place. ended Thursday with a life sentence for the murder of 17 people by Cruz.
Motion asks law enforcement to question the anonymous juror after she told the DA’s office ‘she perceived a threat from a fellow juror while she was in the room jurors”. No other details were given. A hearing is scheduled for Friday afternoon.
A split jury spared Cruz the death penalty and instead decided to send him to prison for the rest of his life in a decision that left many of the victims’ families angry, bewildered and in tears. Cruz, 24 years old, pleaded guilty a year ago for murdering 14 students and three staff and injuring 17 others at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on February 14, 2018.
Under Florida law, a death sentence requires a unanimous vote on at least one count. The jury of seven men and five women unanimously agreed that there were aggravating factors to justify a possible death sentence, such as agreeing that the murders were “particularly heinous, atrocious or cruel”.
But one or more jurors also found mitigating factors, such as unaddressed childhood issues. In the end, the jury couldn’t agree that the aggravating factors outweighed the mitigating factors, so Cruz will get life without parole. Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer will officially hand down the life sentences on November 1. Relatives, as well as students and teachers injured by Cruz, will have the opportunity to speak.
Jurors pledged during the selection process to vote for a death sentence, but some relatives of victims, some of whom attended the trial almost daily, questioned whether they were all being honest.
Juror says deliberations ‘were very tense’
Juror Denise Cunha sent a short, handwritten note to the judge on Thursday defending her vote for a life sentence and denying that she intended to vote that way before the trial began.
“Deliberations were very tense and some jurors became extremely upset once I mentioned I would vote for life,” Cunha wrote. She did not explain her vote and it is unclear whether she was the juror who complained to the prosecutor’s office.
Jury foreman Benjamin Thomas told local reporters that three jurors voted for life in the last ballot. Two were willing to reconsider, but one was a “categorical no” to the death penalty.
“It was really about a specific (juror) that he (Cruz) was mentally ill,” Thomas said. He did not say if this person was Cunha.