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Matthew Bent’s Lawyer Asks For New Trial Based On Juror Misconduct

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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 (CBS4) – With a guilty verdict, Michael Brewer’s family thought they had final closure in the attempted murder of their son. Matthew Bent was convicted of dousing Brewer with alcohol and setting him on fire two-and-a-half years ago.

But now, a juror is saying that’s not what she meant after all.

Karen McCord sent a letter to the judge saying, “I had been immediately attacked when I posted a not-guilty verdict.  I was accused of being racist and other hurtful names.”  She went on to tell the judge, “I strongly believe that Matthew Bent is not guilty, based on the evidence given. ”  She claims, “I was pressured into changing my verdict.”

Maria Schneider was the prosecutor in the case.  She believes, despite the juror’s allegations that she was bullied by the others — the verdict will stand.

“I feel it was a just and legal verdict based on the evidence that was presented and I’m confident it will be upheld by the courts,” said Schneider.

Schneider may be correct.

According to legal expert Bob Jarvis, a law professor at Nova Southeastern University, so called “buyer’s remorse” after a verdict is usually not a good reason to overturn a verdict. He also points out that she had plenty of chances to speak up, including when the verdict was read.

“She was specifically asked, ‘Is this your verdict?’ and she could have said ‘No, this isn’t my verdict, I was pressured into it. These other five people made me do this,'” said Jarvis.

Jarvis says if judges threw out verdicts every time a juror changed his mind, the legal system would be a mess.

“I would be stunned if the judge, on the basis of this juror letter ordered a new trial,” Jarvis said.

The big question right now is whether the judge grant a new trial, as Bent’s attorneys asked, or will he do nothing at all. Right now, the answer is unclear.

That means final closure for Michael Brewer’s family is, for now, a looming question mark.

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