A member of the jury who recommended a life sentence to Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz this week claimed she was threatened by another juror during deliberations.
Prosecutors in the case are now asking law enforcement to question the anonymous juror after she told the state’s attorney’s office “she received what she perceived as a threat.”
“Juror X spoke to a support staff member and informed the support staff member that during deliberations she had received what she perceived as a threat from a fellow juror when she was in the jury room,” a court filing said.
“The State did not recall Juror X and instead filed a notice with the Court.”
News of the alleged threat comes hours after Cruz was spared the death penalty, and instead recommended to serve life in prison without the possibility of parole. Cruz pleaded guilty last year to killing 14 students and three staff members in the February 14, 2018, massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
According to the motion filed Thursday evening by the Broward County District Attorney’s Office, “Juror X” was called to the district attorney’s office at 2 p.m. Friday to speak with Assistant District Attorney Michael Satz, who was the lead prosecutor during the court case.
During the hearing, prosecutors stressed that the motion was filed solely for security reasons and that the state’s attorney’s office would not be involved.
“Frankly, we don’t want to touch this with a 10-foot pole because we know the defense will jump for joy and say we’re trying to undermine the verdict, which we’re not trying to do,” said the prosecutor. said Carolyn McCann.
“The only reason we’re doing this is because we can’t ignore a security issue,” McCann added.
Judge Elizabeth Scherer agreed.
The jury of seven men and five women had to reach a unanimous vote on at least one of the 17 counts it considered in order to recommend the death penalty.
The jury concluded that even if there was enough to warrant death, “extenuating circumstances” presented at trial led the group to recommend that Cruz spend life in prison.
Three jurors voted for life in the final ballot, jury foreman Benjamin Thomas told local reporters. Two were willing to reconsider, but one was a “hard no” to death, he said.
“It really came down to a [juror] that he [Cruz] was mentally ill,” Thomas said.
In a note to the judge on Thursday, juror Denise Cunha defended her decision to vote for a life sentence. She denied intending to vote this way before the trial.
“Deliberations were very tense and some jurors became extremely upset once I mentioned I would vote for life,” Cunha wrote, without giving further details.
It is unclear if Cunha is the juror who made the threatening allegations.
Relatives of the victims expressed disgust after the verdict was read, and many denounced the decision, saying it was inadequate given Cruz’s cold-blooded actions.
A parent, at a press conference, called Cruz an animal that “deserves to die.”
governor of florida Ron DeSantis also expressed his disappointment with the jury’s decision, saying, “I just don’t think anything else is appropriate except capital punishment in this case.”
Cruz will be officially sentenced by Scherer on November 1.
With post wires