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Jury Calls It A Day In Teen Burning Trial

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Matthew Bent in court on the first day of jury selection in the Michael Brewer burning case on June 11, 2012. (CBS4)

Matthew Bent in court on the first day of jury selection in the Michael Brewer burning case on June 11, 2012. (CBS4)

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South Florida Crime

FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – Jury deliberations will continue  Tuesday in the trial of 17-year-old Matthew Bent, who is accused of orchestrating the fiery attack on Michael Brewer in 2009.

The jury went home for the day Monday just before 6 p.m. Jurors had asked for all of the police depositions and statements in the case, but the judge said they were not permitted to see them because they were not part of the record.

“I’m not playing with words,” prosecutor Maria Schneider told the jury. ‘He was offering people money to beat Michael, not scare Michael.”

Monday morning, closing arguments were delivered after Bent told the court he would not testify in his own defense. His attorneys then rested their case without calling a single witness.

“Sometimes people are the victim of circumstance, sometimes people are the architect of circumstances. Matthew Bent is the architect of the circumstances that lead up to that tragic event,” said Schneider during her closing argument Monday.

Bent is accused of masterminding the fiery attack that left fellow teen Matthew Brewer with burns over 2/3 of his body. He is charged with attempted second-degree murder in the October 2009 attack on Brewer, who was then 15. “Who is going to even contemplate that another human being is goign to pull out a lighter and set somebody afire?” defense attorney Johnny McCray said to the jury.

Bent faces a maximum 30 years in prison if convicted of attempted second degree murder

Prosecutors said Bent offered Denver Jarvis money to pour rubbing alcohol on Brewer in the October 2009 attack. A boy, Jesus Mendez, set him ablaze with a lighter. Jarvis and Mendez pleaded no contest and are serving prison time.

Both Jarvis and Mendez testified at the trial. So did Brewer who recalled what he could on the stand about the day he was doused with rubbing alcohol and set ablaze.

“I remember looking down and I could see skin hanging from my arms,” said Brewer last week. When the prosecutor asked him how he felt at that point, he replied, “I felt like I was going to die.”

There was bad blood between Bent and Brewer after Brewer said he refused to pay $40 that Bent wanted for a pot smoking pipe.

Bent’s defense claims Brewer lied about the pipe, and originally said he owed money for a video game. Bent’s attorneys also claim that there was no testimony alleging Bent ever gave an order to hurt Brewer.

“I empathize and I sympathize with Michael Brewer,” McCray said in his closing argument. “But because Michael Brewer, ladies and gentlemen, suffered traumatic injuries, doesn’t give him the license to come in here and be untruthful. It doesn’t give him the license to lie to you.”

Bent decided not to take the stand, believing the state did not prove its case.

Prosecutor Maria Schneider closed by noting a charge of second-degree attempted murder does not require her to prove Bent had a premeditated plan to kill Brewer, only that Bent placed Brewer’s life in danger through his actions.

“I am asking that now, today, 975 days later asking you to hold this young man responsible for his actions,” Schneider said. “You can’t orchestrate something then wipe your hands and say, ‘Oh they did it! They did it on their own, I had nothing to do with it.'”

At the end of jury deliberations, Michael Brewer and his family left the courthouse. His grandmother said the family is holding up well despite the stress of the trial.

“Everything’s coming together and we’re good and strong,” Reenie Brewer said. “Michael’s great and that’s what we’ve cared about since day one.”

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