FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) — The case of a South Florida teen convicted in a fiery attack on a middle school classmate went back to court Friday over allegations of juror misconduct and a potential new trial.
“Today is three years to the day, as a matter of fact, almost exactly the same time,’ laments Reenie Brewer, the grandmother of Michael Brewer as she stands outside a Broward courtroom.
She and the family can hardly believe that exactly three years after the teen was burned from head to toe, the case against the accused mastermind is still going on.
Matthew Bent was found guilty of aggravated assault in the case, but a juror claims there were problems in the jury room.
“They were saying that this case is very easy to decide,” said Karen Bates-McCord, speaking of a fellow juror. She was the jury foreperson.
She told a judge today that jurors began deciding the case while testimony was still going on, that’s against the rules.
Others on the jury told the judge it was just idle chit chat.
“No comments were made as to what side they were on,” said juror Jessica Walker, “or, ‘oh, what do you think about this or what do you think about that?’ Just general conversation.”
Bates-McCord said race played a role too, that fellow juror Maria Linter called her racist.
“The minute that I said something, they jumped up and says, ‘you gotta be crazy, you gotta be crazy, how did you come back with such a verdict.’ I said, ‘excuse me!’ and that’s when she started calling me a racist,” said Bates-McCord.
Originally, Bates-McCord said she felt forced to change her vote from not guilty to guilty, but she did not mention that in court as the judge and attorneys questioned all the jurors.
“You didn’t’ say that to the judge, why?” asked a reporter.
“Because he didn’t let me answer the questions the way I wanted to,” said Bates-McCord.
Maria Linter is the person Bates-McCord said called her a racist.
“Did anyone call anybody a racist in that deliberation?” asked Broward Circuit Judge Matt Destry.
“No,” said Linter.
“That never happened?” the judge asked.
“No,” she said. “They said, ‘don’t make this a racial case,’ but nobody was called racist.”
Bent’s attorney figures there were issues in that jury room – but said jurors were all over the map trying to explain.
“I think that something happened,” said attorney Perry Thursday. “Exactly what is was, I’m not sure.”
Everyone returns to court on Wednesday. If the judge rules in Bent’s favor, he’ll get a new trial.