Juror in Parkland Shooting Case Was Threatened Before Verdict Reached: Filing

A juror also disputes she had her mind made up before trial started

Juror in Parkland Shooting Case Was Threatened Before Verdict Reached: Filing
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz (L) speaks with Assistant Public Defender Melisa McNeill as the verdicts are read in his trial at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Oct. 13, 2022. (Amy Beth Bennett/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)
Zachary Stieber
10/14/2022
Updated:
10/14/2022
0:00

A female juror in the Parkland, Florida, shooting case was threatened during deliberations on Oct. 13, according to a new court filing.

The unnamed juror, identified in the filings as "Juror X," called prosecutors on Thursday afternoon and said that while deliberations were happening, "she received what she perceived to be a threat from a fellow juror while in the jury room," the Broward County State Attorney's Office said late Oct. 13.

"This Court has a duty to investigate this allegation. Since this is a potential crime, the State requests that law enforcement conduct the interview of Juror X rather than the Court or the parties," prosecutors added.

They made a motion for the juror to be interviewed.

Nikolas Cruz, who pleaded guilty to the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, avoided the death penalty earlier Thursday when jurors could not reach a unanimous decision to sentence him to death. Instead, he's set to receive life in prison with no possibility of parole.

Cruz murdered 17 people and left 17 others wounded.

The trial was for Cruz's sentence. Jurors could decide between capital punishment and life in prison.

Florida rules state that any party who has reason to believe a verdict may be subject to a legal challenge can ask a court to permit an interview of a juror or jurors within 10 days of a verdict.

Granting such a motion is up to the trial judge.

The identity of the juror will be provided during a hearing on the matter, prosecutors said.

Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer was set to hear arguments on the motion on Friday.

Juror Speaks Out

In another filing, Denise Cunha, one of the jurors, challenged notions that she had her mind made up before the trial commenced.

Another juror overheard other jurors, who voted for Cruz to receive the death penalty, stating that Cunha had already made up her mind to sentence Cruz to life in prison, Cunha said.

"This allegation is untrue and I maintained my oath to the court that I would be fair and unbiased," Cunha wrote in a handwritten note to the judge.

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

Cunha offered her phone number to Scherer if there were any questions. The number was redacted in the copy of the note that was placed on the court docket.

Family members of victims, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist were among the parties expressing disappointment with Cruz not being sentenced to death.