REVEALED: Parkland school shooting juror who held out on death penalty for Nikolas Cruz writes note to judge describing deliberations as ‘very tense’ and others being ‘extremely unhappy’ when they said they would vote for life in prison
- A juror wrote a note to Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer describing heated deliberations over the fate of Nikolas Cruz, the Parkland school shooter
- The juror said they remained ‘fair and unbiased’ when sticking to their decision to vote for life in prison, allowing Cruz to escape the death penalty
- Under Florida law, a death sentence can only be handed down if jurors unanimously recommended he be executed
- The juror noted that their decision made the rest of the jury ‘extremely unhappy,’ with many of them visibly upset and crying in the courtroom
- The families of the 17 victims also broke down over the decision, with one warning that it sends a message to the next school shooter
The sole juror who held out on the death penalty for Nikolas Cruz, the Parkland school shooter who killed 17, described deliberations as ‘very tense’ as they maintained their decision to vote life in prison.
In a letter submitted to Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer, the juror recalled heated debates with the jury over the fate of Cruz, 24, who faced the death penalty for the the 2018 massacre.
The juror claimed that despite rumors that they had already made up their mind prior to the trial, they remained ‘fair and unbiased’ in making their allegedly unpopular decision.
‘The deliberations were very tense and some jurors became extremely unhappy once I mentioned that I would vote for life.’
The verdict was reached on Thursday after the jury said it could not unanimously agree that Cruz should be executed.
Under Florida law, a death sentence requires a unanimous vote on at least one count. The only other option is life in prison.
A juror wrote a note to Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer describing heated deliberations over the fate of Nikolas Cruz, who escaped the death penalty for the Parkland school massacre after the juror maintained their vote for life in prison
Cruz, 24, is seen embracing Chief Assistant Public Defender David Wheeler and smiling after it was revealed that the confessed killer would be getting life in prison – not the death penalty. Cruz killed 17 people at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018
The decision left parents devastated. Ilan and Lori Alhadeff, whose 14-year-old daughter died in the slaying, comforted each other as the 17 verdicts were detailed in court
PARKLAND SCHOOL SHOOTING VICTIMS: Top Row L-R: Jaime Guttenberg, Nicholas Dworet, Martin Duque, Meadow Pollack, Cara Loughran — Second Row L-R: Alyssa Alhadeff, Luke Hoyer, Joaquin Oliver, Gina Montalto — Third Row L-R: Alaina Petty, Carmen Schentrup, Peter Wang, Alex Schachter — Fourth Row L-R: Helena Ramsey, Scott Beigel, Aaron Feis, Chris Hixon
Tweeting the play-by-play in court, reporter Christina Boomer said that the jury came out of deliberation with several members visibly upset and with one woman nearly in tears.
By the time the jury presented their verdict for the judge to read aloud, two female jurors were already sobbing, and several male jurors were hunched over and keeping their heads down.
Boomer noted that there was a sole female juror who kept calm through the entire proceedings, juxtaposing the anguish of the rest of the jury.
The calm juror, who took sips from a coffee mug during the proceedings, was reportedly a Broward County library worker who previously worked as a church administrator .
Other members of the jury included a university staffer, a retail stocking supervisor, a probation officer, a human resources worker, and a former French military officer, according to Local 10.
Families and friends of the victims were visibly emotional as they reacted to the verdict. Many shook their heads, looked angry or covered their eyes. Some parents sobbed as they left court.
Jurors returned the verdict of recommending life in prison after just a day of deliberations and a three-months long trial that included graphic videos and photos, heart-wrenching testimony from victims’ family members and a tour of the still blood-spattered school building.
Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer, who cannot overrule the jury’s recommendation, will formally issue the life sentence on November 1. At that time, relatives, along with the students and teachers Cruz wounded, will be given the opportunity to speak.
Gena Hoyer, whose son Luke was killed in the shootings, closes her eyes during the verdict
Corey Hixon, son of athletic director Chris Hixon who was killed, had to be walked out of court as the verdicts were read out loud
Ilan Alhadeff, whose daughter Alyssa was shot eight times, said that the decision ‘sets a precedent’ for the next mass killing
Corey Hixon, the son of athletic director Chris Hixon who was killed in the mass slaying walked out of court hand in hand with a female companion as the verdicts were read out.
Ilan Alhadeff, whose daughter Alyssa was shot eight times, said that the decision ‘sets a precedent’ for the next mass killing.
He said: ‘I’m disgusted with our legal system, I’m disgusted with those jurors. I’m disgusted with the system.’
Other relatives had their heads in their hands as they listened to the outcome of the three-month sentencing hearing.
A woman was seen appearing to mouth ‘unbelievable’ as she was comforted by her husband as the verdicts were read out.
Gina Montalto’s parents began clutching each other’s hands before the reading began, and they started crying through the reading. Luke Hoyer’s mother was also crying.
Jaime Guttenberg’s father and Alaina Petty’s mother were holding their heads in their hands.
Cruz reacts as he waits to hear his fate after pleading guilty a year ago to murdering 14 students and three staff members and wounding 17 others on February 14, 2018
Nikolas Cruz, who will soon learn if he’ll receive a death sentence or be sent to prison for life, is seen on security footage inside the school in 2018 when he carried out his rampage. Now, on the second day of deliberations, jurors have asked to view the AR-15 he used in the shootings
Cruz pleaded guilty a year ago to murdering 14 students and three staff members and wounding 17 others on February 14, 2018.
Cruz said he chose Valentine’s Day to make it impossible for Stoneman Douglas students to celebrate the holiday ever again.
The massacre is the deadliest mass shooting that has ever gone to trial in the U.S. Nine other people in the US who fatally shot at least 17 people died during or immediately after their attacks by suicide or police gunfire.
Cruz’s defense team had acknowledged the severity of his crimes, but asked jurors to consider mitigating factors including lifelong mental health disorders resulting from his biological mother’s substance abuse during pregnancy.
During closing arguments on Tuesday, attorneys for both sides wrapped up three months of testimony in one last push for either a death sentence or life in prison.
The prosecution and the defense agreed that his 2018 attack that killed 17 people was horrible, but disagreed in their closing arguments on whether it was an act of evil worthy of execution or one of a broken person who should be imprisoned for life.
Back in July during witness testimony, Assistant State Attorney Mike Satz showed the jury and the court the AR-15, which was purchased legally in 2017, that was used in the tragic massacre
Judge Elizabeth Scherer who cannot overrule the jury’s recommendation, will formally issue the life sentence on November 1
Medical personnel tend to a victim outside of Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland
Lead prosecutor Mike Satz kept his case simple for the seven-man, five-woman jury. He focused on Cruz’s eight months of planning, the seven minutes he stalked the halls of a three-story classroom building, firing 140 shots with an AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle, and his escape.
He played security videos of the shooting and showed gruesome crime scene and autopsy photos.
Teachers and students testified about watching others die. He took the jury to the fenced-off building, which remains blood-stained and bullet-pocked.
Cruz’s lead attorney Melisa McNeill and her team never questioned the horror he inflicted, but focused on their belief that his birth mother’s heavy drinking during pregnancy left him with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.
Their experts said his bizarre, troubling and sometimes violent behavior starting at age 2 was misdiagnosed as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, meaning he never got the proper treatment. That left his widowed adoptive mother overwhelmed, they said.
Prosecutors contended that Cruz did not suffer from fetal alcohol damage but has antisocial personality disorder – in lay terms, he’s a sociopath.
Their witnesses said Cruz faked brain damage during testing and that he was capable of controlling his actions, but chose not to.
Prosecutors also played numerous video recordings of Cruz discussing the crime with their mental health experts where he talked about his planning and motivation.
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