The deliberation room where 12 jurors decided the fate of confessed mass shooter Nikolas Cruz may have been a crime scene itself, reports the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. A juror says she was threatened during deliberations, and prosecutors want the claim investigated. A juror called the Broward State Attorney’s Office after the verdict was read and asked to speak to prosecutor Mike Satz. The juror said she received what she perceived to be a threat from a fellow juror while in the jury room. While a majority of jurors wanted Cruz to receive the death penalty for the 17 murders he committed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2018, Florida requires a unanimous recommendation to impose death.
The jury of five women and seven men did not agree unanimously, and the death penalty was rejected in all 17 counts. Judge Elizabeth Scherer is bound by law to sentence Cruz to life in prison. The sentencing hearing is scheduled for Nov. 1. Prosecutors are asking for the investigation under a provision in criminal procedure that allows for it in cases where “the verdict may be subject to challenge.” It is unlikely that allegations of juror misconduct raised after trial can change the outcome when it’s in the defendant’s favor. Jurors who oppose the death penalty have no incentive to persuade others to join them, by reason or by threat. It’s not clear whether the threatened juror voted for death or life. Juror Denise Cunha wrote Scherer that she angered fellow panelists when she made it clear she would not vote to execute Cruz. “The deliberations were very tense and some jurors became extremely unhappy once I mentioned that I would vote life,” she wrote. Threatening a juror under Florida law is a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison.