FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – Broward County Judge Michael Robinson has ruled Matthew Bent, the alleged ringleader in the fiery attack of Michael Brewer in 2009, is competent to stand trial and that the jurors in the trial would be from Broward County.
Attorneys for Bent had asked for a change of venue due to the extensive local media coverage of the case. Bent’s attorney Gordon Weekes said in a court filing Tuesday the trial should be held in Jacksonville or that jurors be brought in from Jacksonville for the trial.
Judge Robinson said that if the court has to go through 600 jurors in Broward County to find an impartial jury, it will. But, if an impartial jury can’t be found in Broward, that the court will consider looking to Orlando or Bradenton.
Johnnie McCray, Jr. and Perry Thurston also informed the judge in the case Thursday that they would be taking over the case as Bent’s defense attorney, rather than the public defender’s office.
“Without a doubt, we think there will be a challenge finding a fair jury,” Thurston said. “But the judge will give it a try, but if we can’t, we have no trouble with a change of venue.”
Bent, 17, is charged with attempted second-degree murder in the attack on Brewer, who was doused with rubbing alcohol and set ablaze.
Last month, two other teens who were charged in the case, 19-year old Jesus Mendez and 18-year old Denver Jarvis, pled no contest to attempted second degree murder.
Mendez, who was accused of flicking the lighter, was sentenced to 11 years in prison, one year of community control and 18 years probation. Jarvis, who was accused of pouring the liquid on Brewer, was sentenced to eight years in prison, one year of community of control and 21 years of probation.
For Michael Brewer’s grandmother, the delays and initial crime are “stressful, but we’ll be okay,” Reenie Brewer said. As for Michael, Reenie said he’s ready for the looming trial.
“He has to do what he has to do,” Reenie Brewer said, “and we have to do what have to do, and we will. Michael is very strong.”
In Thursday’s rulings, the trial was set for May 31 and 500 potential jurors will be called to start.
Bent faces up to 30 years if convicted.