FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The defense and prosecution teams in the Nikolas Cruz sentencing trial were back in court Friday to discuss allegations that a juror in the case was threatened by a fellow juror.
One juror filed a handwritten note to the court that stated deliberations were tense and other jurors favoring the death penalty were extremely unhappy with her vote for a life sentence.
Broward County Assistant State Attorneys Carolyn McCann and Carolyn Bandklayder then filed a motion Thursday requesting that Judge Elizabeth Scherer let law enforcement interview "Juror X" about the possible crime.
Watch the full hearing below:
"Juror X spoke to a support staff member and informed the support staff member that during deliberations she received what she perceived to be a threat from a fellow juror while in the jury room," the motion said.
During Friday's hearing, McCann made it clear that they were not trying to undermine Thursday's life-in-prison recommendation by the jury.
"We are not seeking to set aside the verdict," McCann said. "This motion was filed for safety reasons. We do not have an ulterior motive, so I want to put everyone's concerns aside. ... Frankly, we don't want to touch this with a 10-foot pole."
McCann said the juror's allegation that they were threatened by a fellow juror in the jury room "cannot be ignored."
"This is a safety issue ... a prosecutor cannot ignore a phone call that a threat has been made and that the person is frightened," McCann said. "It may be nothing, but it may be something."
Scherer agreed with McCann's assessment of the situation and said the sheriff's office has been made aware of the allegations.
"If there was a crime that was potentially committed in the Broward County Courthouse, in the jury room, I think that if the sheriff were to look into it, that would be entirely appropriate under the circumstances," Scherer said during Friday's hearing.
The judge allowed the prosecution team to turn over the name of the juror involved so the matter could be looked at by law enforcement.
"I'm not going to order them to investigate it," Scherer said. "I think that certainly if that's a matter that they feel is appropriate for a criminal investigation that's what they should do."
The Broward Sheriff's Office said in a statement Friday afternoon that they had received the information regarding the juror's complaint and will investigate.
Scherer also admitted that another juror had tried to contact her during the reading of the verdict, but she pointed out that such contact was not proper.
Legal experts said tension can sometimes exist in jury rooms, especially when one juror appears to be a holdout.
"What we know from jury research is when you have one holdout juror, the other eleven jurors try very hard for days to convince the one holdout to come to their side," Bob Jarvis, a legal professor at Nova Southeastern University, said.