Parkland parents voice support of bill to lower jury threshold for death penalty

PARKLAND, Fla. (FLV) – Parkland shooting victims’ families responded after lawmakers filed a bill that would prevent one juror from being able to nix the death penalty. Under the proposed bill, a supermajority, rather than a unanimous verdict, would be needed to enact capital punishment.

National school safety advocate Max Schachter is the father of Alex Schachter, one of the 17 victims murdered in the Parkland school shooting in 2018. He thanked Sen. Blaise Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill, and Rep. Berny Jacques, R-Seminole, for putting forth the legislation.

Ingoglia and Jacques filed a Senate and House version of the legislation to reform death penalty sentences by recommending the current Florida Statute change from 12 unanimous jurors determining death sentences to a supermajority of eight jurors.

Currently, under Florida’s death penalty law, all 12 jurors must unanimously agree that the defendant should be sentenced to death. If one juror disagrees with the death penalty, the defendant will not be sentenced to death, instead they would receive life in prison without parole.

On Feb. 14, 2018, Nikolas Cruz entered Parkland, Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and opened fire, shooting and killing 17 victims and injuring another 17.

In 2022, some of the victims’ families felt justice was not served by the outcome of Cruz’s trial. Many urged a death penalty sentence for Cruz but one of the 12 jurors did not agree and he received a life sentence instead.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has called for state lawmakers to prevent one juror from being able to stop a capital punishment sentencing after the Parkland shooter received a sentencing instead of the death penalty.

“One juror should not be able to veto that and I just don’t think justice was served in that case,” the governor explained.

Florida’s Voice asked American school safety activist Ryan Petty, the father of Alaina Petty, a 14 year-old victim who was murdered in the shooting, if he supports the legislation filed by Ingoglia and Jacques.

“I support it 100 percent. I mean, no single juror should be able to hijack our justice system,” Petty said.

Petty explained that he, among several of the families, were “stunned” and “couldn’t believe” the outcome of the trial for Cruz. Petty believes justice was not served and that the new bill is “critical” to make sure other families receive justice.

“I think the governor reacted the same way most of our families reacted,” Petty said. “We were stunned and couldn’t believe the outcome of the trial for the killer. Very disappointed that one juror could completely hijack our criminal justice system. It’s not fair, it’s not justice and I think this change is critical in making sure that victim’s families ultimately get justice.”