FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) - The alleged ringleader in a fiery 2009 attack on a teenager by middle school classmates will not get a new trial based on claims of jury misconduct, a judge ruled Monday.
Circuit Judge Matthew Destry said allegations made by some jurors about racial animosity and turmoil during deliberations did not rise to the level of misconduct that warrants a new trial. The judge previously denied a new trial motion by lawyers for 18-year-old Matthew Bent based on the original trial judge's decision to step aside from the case before Bent was sentenced.
Bent was convicted in June of aggravated battery in the attack on Michael Brewer, who was doused with rubbing alcohol and set on fire. Two other teenagers pleaded no contest to attempted murder charges and are serving prison sentences. Bent faces a maximum 15 years behind bars.
Brewer, who survived after leaping into an apartment complex swimming pool, suffered severe burns over two-thirds of his body but has largely recovered. His grandmother, Reenie Brewer, said the family was pleased by the judge's ruling and hoped the case would soon be over.
"We've got to wait a little bit longer, but when it's done it's done," she said.
Defense attorney Johnny McCray is still pursuing an attempt to convince the judge to acquit Bent based on insufficient evidence that he knew in advance that the others would pour alcohol on Brewer and flick a lighter.
"The law is absolutely clear that he must have intended, in this instance, for this kid to be set on fire," McCray said. "There is no evidence of that."
Destry set a Nov. 2 status hearing in the case. If this last motion is also denied, Bent could be sentenced by the end of the year. McCray said there will be an appeal if the conviction stands.
"I think we will see some real justice once we get this case on appeal," he said.
The attack, which gained national attention, took place after Brewer refused to buy a marijuana pipe from Bent, according to trial testimony. Bent retaliated by attempting to steal a bicycle from the Brewer home, resulting in his arrest for attempted theft.
The next day, a group of boys including Bent by chance found a jug of rubbing alcohol at an apartment complex on the way home from Deerfield Beach Middle School. They encountered Brewer, and prosecutors say Bent urged another boy to pour the liquid on Brewer. A third boy then flicked his lighter.
Denver Colorado Jarvis, 18, is serving an eight-year prison sentence for dousing Brewer in alcohol. Jesus Mendez, also 18, is doing 11 years for starting the fire
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