Parkland shooter prosecutors call for probe of juror threat

Oct 14, 2022, 6:29 AM | Updated: Oct 15, 2022, 5:43 am
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz reacts to the verdict in his trial at the...

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz reacts to the verdict in his trial at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Thursday, Oct. 13, 2022. Cruz will be sentenced to life without parole for the 2018 massacre of 17 people at Parkland's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. That sentence comes after the jury announced Thursday that it could not unanimously agree that Cruz should be executed. (Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP, Pool)

(Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP, Pool)

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Prosecutors of Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz called for an investigation Friday after a juror said another panelist threatened her during the deliberations that ended with a life sentence for Cruz’s murder of 17 people four years ago at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Prosecutor Carolyn McCann told Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer during a brief hearing that prosecutors are not trying to invalidate Thursday’s jury vote and reported the threat only for safety reasons and so the Broward County Sheriff’s Office can investigate.

In their written motion asking for the hearing, prosecutors said the juror told them another juror did something during deliberations that “she perceived to be a threat.”

McCann said they did not ask any further questions because they didn’t want to taint any investigation and said the Broward state attorney’s office has no intention of getting involved further.

“We don’t want to touch this with a 10-foot pole,” she said.

Scherer agreed that if a possible crime was committed, deputies should investigate. The information has been turned over to sheriff’s investigators, who will contact the juror.

Florida criminal defense attorneys Richard Escobar and David Weinstein, who are both former prosecutors, said in interviews that even if a threat was made to a juror, the jury’s decision cannot be overturned because of double jeopardy, or trying the same defendant twice for the same crime.

Weinstein pointed to a 1990s case involving two drug kingpins who bribed a jury and were acquitted. Even under that circumstance, prosecutors couldn’t retry the duo for drug trafficking, but did convict them on charges stemming from the bribery.

Scherer said two jurors tried to speak to her after Thursday’s decision was announced, she said, but she told them that wouldn’t be appropriate.

Scherer said a bailiff told her later that one juror wanted to speak to her during Thursday’s reading of the decision. That juror sat slumped over during the 50-minute reading but did nothing obvious to indicate he wanted Scherer’s attention. When the jurors were polled, he agreed the life sentence was the panel’s decision.

Jurors have told local TV stations that the final vote was 9-3 for death, with one of the three voters for life adamant she would never change her mind. Under Florida law, a death sentence requires a unanimous vote, and jurors decided there was no point in continuing deliberations.

That means Scherer will sentence Cruz to life without parole at a Nov. 1 hearing — a punishment whose announcement left many families of the victims angered, baffled and in tears. They will be allowed to address Cruz at the hearing.

Jury foreman Benjamin Thomas told local reporters “It really came down to a specific (juror) that he (Cruz) was mentally ill.”

Cruz, 24, pleaded guilty a year ago to murdering 14 Stoneman Douglas students and three staff members, and wounding 17 others on Feb. 14, 2018.

Cruz’s jury unanimously agreed there were aggravating factors to warrant a possible death sentence, such as agreeing that the murders were “especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel.”

But one or more jurors also found mitigating factors, such as untreated childhood problems stemming from his birth mother’s excessive drinking during pregnancy. In the end, the jury could not unanimously agree that the aggravating factors outweighed the mitigators.

The jurors pledged during the selection process that they could vote for a death sentence, but some parents, including some who attended the trial almost daily, wondered whether they were all being honest.

Juror Denise Cunha sent a short handwritten note to the judge Thursday defending her vote for a life sentence and denying she intended to vote that way before the trial began.

“The deliberations were very tense and some jurors became extremely unhappy once I mentioned that I would vote for life,” Cunha wrote. She did not explain her vote. McCann said she is not the juror who reported the possible threat.

Thomas did not say whether that adamant life vote was Cunha’s.


Izaguirre reported from Tallahassee, Florida.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


A crime scene is taped off at New Season Church in Nashville, Tenn., on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022. Me...
Associated Press

Drive-by shooting injures 2 at funeral at Nashville church

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A drive-by shooting in Nashville on Saturday injured two people as they and others were walking out of church from the funeral of a woman who was fatally shot earlier this month, according to police. Metro Nashville Police Department spokesperson Don Aaron said the afternoon shooting occurred outside New Season Church, […]
18 hours ago
FILE - Zion National Park near Springdale, Utah, is pictured on Sept. 15, 2015. A woman died and a ...
Associated Press

Woman dies on hike in Utah’s Zion Park, husband rescued

A woman died and a man was rescued after they were caught in extreme cold weather while hiking in Utah's Zion National Park.
18 hours ago
FILE - Nick Fuentes, far-right activist, holds a rally at the Lansing Capitol, in Lansing, Mich., N...
Associated Press

Trump faulted for dinner with white nationalist, rapper Ye

NEW YORK (AP) — Former President Donald Trump is renewing attention to his long history of turning a blind eye to bigotry after dining with a Holocaust-denying white nationalist and the rapper formerly known as Kanye West just days into his third campaign for the White House. Trump had dinner Tuesday at his Mar-a-Lago club […]
18 hours ago
Associated Press

12-year-old dies in Russian Roulette; murder charges brought

A 12-year-old boy is dead after playing Russian Roulette with peers in Jackson, Mississippi, police say. Jackson’s Deputy Police Chief Deric Hearn identified the boy as Markell Noah, according to reports by Mississippi-based WLBT-TV. Following the death officers arrested two juveniles and one adult Friday. Police say the two juveniles are being charged with murder […]
18 hours ago
President Joe Biden visits a shop in Nantucket, Mass., Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022. (AP Photo/Susan Wal...
Associated Press

Biden, family hit Nantucket stores for some holiday shopping

NANTUCKET, Mass. (AP) — President Joe Biden went holiday shopping on the Massachusetts resort island where he spends Thanksgiving, patronizing smaller independently owned stores on what the retail industry has called “Small Business Saturday.” Biden, his wife, Jill, and daughter Ashley went from store to store on Main Street in downtown Nantucket, lingering at Polo […]
18 hours ago
Associated Press

Rugby star and ALS campaigner Doddie Weir dies at 52

EDINBURGH, Scotland (AP) — Doddie Weir, a former Scotland rugby player whose diagnosis with Lou Gehrig’s disease led to a widely praised campaign for more research into ALS, has died at the age of 52. The Scottish Rugby Union (SRU) announced Weir’s death on Saturday. The lock played 61 times for Scotland and was famed […]
18 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Quantum Fiber

Stream 4K and more with powerful, high-speed fiber internet

Picking which streaming services to subscribe to are difficult choices, and there is no room for internet that cannot handle increased demands.
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Here are 4 signs the HVAC unit needs to be replaced

Pool renovations and kitchen upgrades may seem enticing, but at the forefront of these investments arguably should be what residents use the most. In a state where summertime is sweltering, access to a functioning HVAC unit can be critical.
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Ways to prevent clogged drains and what to do if you’re too late

While there are a variety of ways to prevent clogged drains, it's equally as important to know what to do when you're already too late.
Parkland shooter prosecutors call for probe of juror threat