The jury foreman in the trial determining the fate of the Parkland High School shooter who killed 17 people on Valentine’s Day in 2018 said three of the 12 jurors opted for a life sentence in prison.
The shooter, who The Daily Wire will not name, pleaded guilty to 17 counts of murder last year, which included 14 students as young as 14 years old and three staff members. But the Florida jury rejected the much-anticipated death sentence rather than receiving the majority vote for the death penalty.
Benjamin Thomas, the jury foreman, told CBS Miami that one juror refused to vote in favor of executing the gunman because she believed he had some form of mental illness. Her belief may have been why two more jurors ultimately voted with her.
“There was one with a hard no — she couldn’t do it — and there was another two that ended up voting the same way,” Thomas said, adding that the verdict to put the shooter in prison for life without parole disappointed him, but he respected the other jurors’ choice.
Despite his dissatisfaction with the vote, Thomas said, “that’s how the jury system works.”
“Everybody gets their vote — everybody gets to decide,” he said. “We went through all the evidence, and some of the jurors just felt that was the appropriate sentence.”
According to Thomas, the jury concluded their decision on Wednesday, but some wanted to take the night to sleep on it before returning to court the following day.
If a juror has made up their mind and they will only vote one way, “there’s nothing else you can do, so we voted and moved on,” he said, adding that he felt bad for the victims’ families as the decision hurt many of them.
“This is insane. Everyone knows, right?” Chen Wang, 14-year-old shooting victim Peter Wang’s cousin, yelled during a news conference after the decision was read, according to The Associated Press. “We need justice.”
Lori Alhadeff, the mother of 14-year-old Alyssa, who was killed on that dreadful day four years ago, said the victims’ relatives are “beyond disappointed with the outcome.”
“This should have been the death penalty — 100%,” Alhadeff said, according to The Associated Press. “I sent my daughter to school, and she was shot eight times. I cannot understand. I just don’t understand.”
The jury, composed of seven men and five women, had to be unanimous to impose the death penalty. Otherwise, the shooter would receive a life sentence for his crimes, which prosecutors described during closing arguments as entailing “systematic massacre.”
Defense attorneys for the shooter argued that his mother drank during pregnancy, causing the shooter to have fetal alcohol syndrome that went undetected throughout his life.
Deliberations began on Wednesday following the conclusion of a three-month trial. According to The Associated Press, the case was the deadliest of its kind to go to trial.
Eric Quintanar contributed to this report.