Three of the 12 jurors deliberating sentencing for Nikolas Cruz chose life imprisonment for the criminal, while the remaining 9 opted for the death sentence for him. But as it turned out, one of the jurors who wanted life without parole for Cruz reported being threatened by other jurors during the deliberation, and another wrote to Judge Elizabeth Scherer stating that many jurors were infuriated when she chose life without parole for Cruz, CNN reports.
Nikolas Cruz faces 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder after shooting 14 students and three teachers to death and wounding 17 others at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in 2018. Cruz pleaded guilty to all charges and so his case did not go to trial but directly to sentencing, and 12 jurors were picked for this.
One of the jurors, Melody Vanoy, said she chose life without parole for Cruz and not the death penalty because he had a rough life growing up, and mental health professionals who evaluated him failed to commit him to a residential facility when he actually needed to be in a mental health facility. Vanoy said deliberations got nasty and other jurors became violent and disrespectful when she chose life without parole over the death sentence.
“There were negative sarcastic remarks,” Vanoy said. “I felt disrespected, despite the relationships that we [the jurors] had built [over time]. The energy was so heated that we wanted to get out of that room. They had to take us down for over 30 minutes to just give us fresh air so we can move around and separate. That’s how heated it got. It got ugly.”
Since three of the 12 jurors went for life without parole for Cruz, the judge that will be sentencing him on November 1 will have to follow the recommendation of life for the convict. While prosecutors want Judge Scherer to investigate claims that some dissenting jurors were threatened during deliberations, said she would not compel law enforcement to investigate any threat claims but that the sheriff’s office is free to do that if it wants to.
The 14 students shot to death by Cruz were: Alyssa Alhadeff, 14; Martin Duque Anguiano, 14; Nicholas Dworet, 17; Jaime Guttenberg, 14; Luke Hoyer, 15; Cara Loughran, 14; Gina Montalto, 14; Joaquin Oliver, 17; Alaina Petty, 14; Meadow Pollack, 18; Helena Ramsay, 17; Alex Schachter, 14; Carmen Schentrup, 16; and Peter Wang, 14. The three slain teachers were Geography teacher Scott Beigel, 35; wrestling coach Chris Hixon, 49; and assistant football coach Aaron Feis, 37.
Parents of the slain students and families of the murdered teachers expressed dissatisfaction with the jurors’ verdict, saying Cruz should have been handed a death sentence and not life without parole.