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Juror allegedly threatened during Parkland school shooter sentencing trial


On Thursday, a jury in Florida recommended that Parkland school shooter Nikolas Jacob Cruz be sentenced to life in prison, now allegations have arisen that one juror was threatened by another during deliberations.


According to the Associated Press, prosecutors are calling for law enforcement to investigate and a hearing is set for Friday afternoon to interview the juror who told the state attorney's office that they "perceived to be a threat from a fellow juror while in the jury room."


Cruz, now 23, entered Marjory Stonemason Douglass High School on February 14, 2018, killing 14 students and three staff members with a semiautomatic rifle and hundreds of rounds of ammunition.


Cruz pleaded guilty to the crimes over a year ago and his sentencing was to determine if he were to spend life in prison or receive the death penalty. Florida law requires a jury to reach a unanimous vote for the death penalty and there was one hold out concerning Cruz.

That juror, Denise Cunha, delivered a handwritten note to Judge Elizabeth Scherer where she defended her hold out and vote for life.


Before the trial began, jurors were asked if they could vote for the death penalty and they all said they could. Now, some families have questioned the veracity of that assertion from Cunha.


"The deliberations were very tense and some jurors became extremely unhappy once I mentioned that I would vote for life," Cunha said.


It has not been confirmed if she was the juror who felt threatened.


Benjamin Thomas, the jury foreman, told news outlets that there were three jurors who voted for life but two were open to reconsideration. It was Cunha who did not yield ground and was a "hard no."


Thomas said, "It really came down to a specific [juror] that he [Cruz] was mentally ill,”

The jury of five women and seven men "unanimously agreed there were aggravating factors to warrant a possible death sentence" as read in court, but at least one juror consistently found there were mitigating factors that negated death, such as Cruz being mentally ill, despite his "especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel" crimes.


As the judge read the verdict, the victims' families were visibly upset.


According to the Hill, Lori Alhadeff, the mother of a 14-year-old who Crus slaughtered, said, "We are beyond disappointed with the outcome."


"This should have been the death penalty, 100 percent. I sent my daughter to school and she was shot eight times," Alhadeff added.


Victim impact statements from the family and friends of the deceased are set to be given at the official sentencing on November 1.

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