BSO investigates juror’s report of ‘threat’ during Parkland shooter’s case

Jurors concerned make phone call to prosecution, send letter to judge, request complaint form

The Broward Sheriff’s Office announced Thursday afternoon that there is an investigation at the Broward County courthouse after the Broward State Attorney’s Office provided information about a complaint from a juror in the Parkland school shooter’s penalty phase.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The Broward Sheriff’s Office announced Thursday afternoon that there is an investigation at the Broward County courthouse after the Broward State Attorney’s Office provided information about a complaint from a juror in the Parkland school shooter’s penalty phase.

Prosecutors filed a motion Thursday asking the court to authorize law enforcement to interview a juror in the Parkland case who called them to say she was threatened by a fellow juror while in the jury room.

According to the motion, the juror, whose identity was not released, called the Office of the State Attorney around 2:14 p.m. Thursday and requested to speak with Assistant State Attorney Michael Satz, who led the prosecution team in the case.

The juror spoke to support staff and claimed that she “received what she perceived to be a threat from a fellow juror while in the jury room,” the motion stated.

During a hearing on the matter Friday, Assistant State Attorney Carolyn McCann said the state was “not trying to set aside the verdict” but said they cannot ignore the issue because it is a safety concern and the juror appeared to be frightened during the phone call.

This speaks to the friction between jurors that some have mentioned, although none thus far had mentioned any threats being made between jurors. Three jurors out of the 17 had complaints: The juror related to the motion, the one who wrote the letter, and another who asked if there was a complaint form.

According to the motion, prosecutors did not return the juror’s call, but instead filed a Notice to the Court, requesting that law enforcement interview the juror since “a crime may have been committed.”

JUROR WRITES LETTER

The motion Thursday came hours after a handwritten letter from juror number 12 was received by the court. Another juror recounted a conversation she had with juror eight in the courthouse parking lot.

The letter reads in part, “I would like to notify you that [juror number eight] heard jurors who voted for the death penalty stating that I had already made up my mind on voting for life before the trial started.

“This allegation is untrue and I maintained my oath to the court that I would be fair and unbiased. The deliberations were very tense and some jurors became extremely unhappy once I mentioned that I would vote for life.”

McCann confirmed in court Friday that the juror who wrote the letter to the judge Thursday was not the same juror who claimed she had been threatened.

REQUEST FOR COMPLAINT FORM

Broward County Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer confirmed that a male juror also wished to speak with her Thursday regarding a complaint he had, and had apparently tried to get her attention during Thursday’s court session.

The judge said she did not personally speak with any jurors after the verdicts were read Thursday as that would have been inappropriate.

“He asked if there was a complaint form that he could fill out, and my answer was ‘No’ and I didn’t think any more of it because I had no idea what he would be complaining about. I didn’t foresee that it was something about the trial,” Scherer said. “I thought maybe he was upset about, I don’t know, about parking or having to wait so long.”

‘NOT HAPPY WITH HOW IT WORKED OUT’

Foreman Benjamin Thomas, a gun owner who works in Information technology, said he voted for the death penalty.

“I’m not happy with how it worked out, but everybody has the right to decide for themselves,” he said. “We waited overnight for people to sleep on it, but if a juror had a hard feeling that they were only going to vote one way, there’s nothing else you can do.”

Juror eight told CNN she voted for life in prison and described the conflict during deliberations. She said she felt “disrespected” in the “heated” room.

“There were three very graceful jurors who voted for the death penalty, who respected everyone’s decision, and there was a good four or five who were very upset,” she said.

Watch the 12 p.m. report

A hearing has been scheduled for Friday afternoon after a woman claimed she was threatened by a fellow juror in the Parkland school shooting case.

Watch the 3 p.m. report

Broward County Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer allowed the prosecution to report a phone call from a juror alleging there was a threat during deliberations in the Parkland school shooter's case.

Watch the 4 p.m. report

The Broward Sheriff’s Office announced Thursday afternoon that there is an investigation at the Broward County courthouse after the Broward State Attorney’s Office provided information about a complaint from a juror in the Parkland school shooter’s penalty phase.

Watch the 5 p.m. report

A day after the Parkland school shooter's verdict, Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer said one of the jurors asked her if there was a complaint form, she said no, and he left, so no one knows what he wanted to complain about.

The full motion can be read below:

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Local 10 News Assignment Desk Editor Guadalupe Monarrez and Digital Journalist Andrea Torres contributed to this report.


About the Authors:

Amanda Batchelor is the Digital Executive Producer for Local10.com.

Christina returned to Local 10 in 2019 as a reporter after covering Hurricane Dorian for the station. She is an Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist and previously earned an Emmy Award while at WPLG for her investigative consumer protection segment "Call Christina."