An investigation is underway into allegations that one juror threatened another in the tense conclusion of deliberations that resulted in Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz being spared the death penalty.
Cruz had pleaded guilty to 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder, which left the jury charged with determining whether he should get the death penalty. Under Florida law, the jury would have to be unanimous in favor of execution for the death penalty to be invoked.
On Thursday, one juror contacted the Office of the State Attorney and said she “received what she perceived to be a threat from a fellow juror while in the jury room,” according to a motion filed with the court, according to WPLG-TV.
The motion said prosecutors had received a phone message regarding the alleged incident but did not respond to the call. Instead, they filed a Notice to the Court, asking for the Broward Sheriff’s Office to investigate, because “a crime may have been committed.”
“We are not seeking to set aside the verdict,” Broward County Assistant State Attorney Carolyn McCann said, according to WPTV-TV. “This motion was filed for safety reasons. We do not have an ulterior motive, so I want to put everyone’s concerns aside. … Frankly, we don’t want to touch this with a 10-foot pole.”
The juror who said she was threatened is not the same person as the one who wrote a letter to the judge about the conduct of another juror, according to WPLG.
That letter, from juror 12, said, “I would like to notify you that [juror number eight] heard jurors who voted for the death penalty stating that I had already made up my mind on voting for life before the trial started.”
“This allegation is untrue and I maintained my oath to the court that I would be fair and unbiased. The deliberations were very tense and some jurors became extremely unhappy once I mentioned that I would vote for life,” the letter said
Broward County Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer also said a male juror had wanted to speak to her Thursday. She said she did not know what he wanted to speak to her about, because she felt it was inappropriate to speak with him at the time.
“He asked if there was a complaint form that he could fill out, and my answer was ‘No’ and I didn’t think any more of it because I had no idea what he would be complaining about. I didn’t foresee that it was something about the trial,” Scherer said. “I thought maybe he was upset about, I don’t know, about parking or having to wait so long.”
Jury foreman Benjamin Thomas said he had voted for the death penalty.
“I’m not happy with how it worked out, but everybody has the right to decide for themselves,” he said. “We waited overnight for people to sleep on it, but if a juror had a hard feeling that they were only going to vote one way, there’s nothing else you can do.”
#ParklandSchoolMassacre juror writes a letter to the judge denying she made up her mind before the deliberations started. @CourtTV @grinsli pic.twitter.com/Qn57nIYr6n
— Julia Jenaé (@JuliaCourtTV) October 13, 2022
Juror Melody Vanoy told CNN she voted against the death penalty because “the system failed” Cruz, and said she made her decision at “the very last minute.”
“I saw several pieces of evidence where several (experts had) recommended (Cruz) be in a residential facility. That never happened,” she said, adding that the end of their deliberations was a hostile time.
“There were negative sarcastic remarks,” Vanoy said. “I heard comments like, ‘we’re going to let the families down.’”
“I felt disrespected, despite the relationships that we had built,” she said. “The energy was so heated that we wanted to get out of that room. They had to take us down for over 30 minutes to just give us fresh air so we can move around and separate. That’s how heated it got.”
“It got ugly,” Vanoy said.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.