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Parkland prosecutors are asking for an investigation after one of the jurors on the trial of Nikolas Cruz said she was threatened.
The state has asked Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer to have law enforcement officers interview the juror who said they were threatened but does not say who the juror is or what sentence they supported, CNN reported.
“Juror X spoke to a support staff member and informed the support staff member that during deliberations she received what she perceived to be a threat from a fellow juror while in the jury room,” the state said. “The State did not call Juror X back and instead, filed a Notice to the Court.”
The state said it wants the juror to be interviewed because “a crime may have been committed.”
But because the sentence was in the defendant’s favor the law says that the judge cannot change it.
Of the 12 jurors, three voted against recommending the death sentence, jury foreman Benjamin Thomas told CNN affiliate WFOR, adding, “I don’t like how it turned out, but … that’s how the jury system works.”
“There was one with a hard ‘no’ – she couldn’t do it. And there was another two that ended up voting the same way,” Thomas said. The woman who was a hard no “didn’t believe, because he was mentally ill, he should get the death penalty,” Thomas said.
Several family members of Cruz’s victims decried the jury’s decision as a cruel denial of the devastation that they have been forced to live with.
Cruz avoided the death penalty and is sentenced to life.
“The jury has been tasked with deciding whether Cruz will receive the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole. Jurors must be unanimous in their decision for a death sentence, according to Florida law. Cruz pleaded guilty last year to 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the Valentine’s Day 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida,” CNN reported.
Lead defense attorney Melisa McNeill asked jurors to spare the life of Cruz, asking them to sentence her client to life in prison, not the death penalty.
“What Nikolas Cruz did should make you angry and sad. There is nothing wrong with feeling those feelings,” she told the jurors.
“By showing you pictures and videos again, the state of Florida wants to put you in a place of hate, anger, and vengeance,” she added. “Giving mercy to Nikolas Cruz will say more about who you are, than it says about him.”
🚨 Breaking: Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz avoids death penalty and is sentenced to lifehttps://t.co/ONS2qdWFZw
— The Independent (@Independent) October 13, 2022
CORRECTION: Florida jury recommends life in prison for Nikolas Cruz, who killed 17 people in a Parkland school shooting https://t.co/xnwbvK1we5
— Reuters (@Reuters) October 13, 2022
Some of the family members understandably not happy at the verdicts of life in prison without parole for Nikolas Cruz, who killed 17 people at Parkland (Marjorie Stoneman Douglas HS) in 2018. Shaking their heads. I truly feel for those families even though I’m anti-death penalty. pic.twitter.com/BWhDnTtJ85
— Omar Moore (@thepopcornreel) October 13, 2022
Defense attorneys would later file a motion to disqualify the judge for her comments, arguing in part they suggested the judge was not impartial and Cruz’s right to a fair trial had been undermined. Prosecutors disagreed, writing “judicial comments, even of a critical or hostile nature, are not grounds for disqualification.”
Scherer ultimately denied the motion.
The lengthy trial of Parkland massacre gunman Nikolas Cruz – jury selection began six months ago, in early April – saw prosecutors and defense attorneys present evidence of aggravating factors and mitigating circumstances, reasons Cruz should or should not be put to death.
The state has pointed to seven such aggravating factors — including that the killings were especially heinous, atrocious or cruel, as well as cold, calculated and premeditated — lead prosecutor Michael Satz said during the trial. Other aggravating factors include the fact the defendant knowingly created a great risk of death to many people and that he disrupted a lawful government function – in this case, the running of a school.
Together, these aggravating factors “outweigh any mitigation about anything about the defendant’s background or character,” Satz said.
Underscoring their argument, prosecutors presented evidence showing the gunman spent months searching online for information about mass shootings and left behind social media comments sharing his express desire to “kill people.”
Some of his Google searches included broad, generic terms, like “murder” or “shooting people.” Others indicated he sought information on specific mass shootings and the people who carried them out. He also searched for a map of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, from which he’d been expelled, and for information on “how long does it take for a cop to show up at a school shooting.” And on YouTube, Cruz left comments like “Im going to be a professional school shooter,” and promised to “go on a killing rampage.”