FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – On Thursday in a Fort Lauderdale courtroom, the jury in the Parkland school shooting trial penalty phase decided not to impose the death penalty on confessed gunman Nikolas Cruz.
At one point, the jury requested to see the AR-15-style rifle used in the shooting, and now we know why.
A female juror told Local 10 News they placed it on the deliberation table to remind the three jurors who were a vote for life of the weight of it, remembering the testimony on how the high velocity bullets the Parkland shooter fired into his murder victims wreaked damage to tissue, organs and bones.
That female juror said she was devastated.
Family members of the victims in the courtroom at first looked at the jurors with hope, but the juror said she was unable to look back at them, knowing the verdict they were about to hear would devastate them.
The jury may have agreed the state proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Cruz knowingly created a great risk of death to many persons, that it was especially heinous, atrocious, and cruel, as the judge said, but they didn’t all agree those aggravators outweighed reasons for life the defense presented during its case.
The defense had asked jurors to consider what shaped the Parkland shooter: a birth mother who the defense said poisoned him in her womb by abusing alcohol and drugs, an adoptive mother inept, they said, with managing his developmental delays and struggles with anxiety and aggression.
In a letter to the judge written Thursday, one of the jurors said she voted for life and described the deliberations as tense.
The juror who thought death was the appropriate punishment said the other jurors who felt the same way even posted the autopsy photos of the victims to the jury room wall to ensure they all understood the impact of their decision.
Since they were not unanimous on all 17 counts, a final recommendation of life in prison without parole was the verdict.
Late Thursday night Local 10 News learned prosecutors are asking the court to authorize law enforcement to interview a juror who called them to say she was threatened by a fellow juror while in the jury room.
This speaks to the friction between jurors that some have mentioned.
Read the motion below: