FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - A judge questioned the jurors who issued a guilty verdict in the trial of Matthew Bent, who was convicted in June of aggravated battery in the 2009 attack on Michael Brewer, after one said she felt pressured to convict the teenager.
Karen Bates McCord made her claims a few days after the trial ended. Matthew Destry, a new judge, was then appointed, and he called jurors back for questioning on Friday.
The judge wanted to know whether jurors began discussing the facts of the case before deliberations and whether racism played a part in the verdict.
"These are touchy questions and, quite frankly, it's very rare that we bring jurors in interviews after rendering a verdict," said Destry.
The first question -- whether there were early deliberations.
"No, not that I'm aware of," said Roger Myrie, juror number five.
"Not that I remember," said Sherri Gordon, juror number six.
"I mean, we weren't talking about the case," said Maria Linton, juror number four.
But one juror saw it differently, and she pointed fingers at jurors Linton and Myrie.
"I remember my reaction to him saying that. I was thinking how could he have an opinion or a verdict already," Jessica Walker, juror number one, said about Myrie.
Then, the judge asked about racism during deliberations.
"It was me who said don't make this a racial case. Make this what it is. I doesn't matter race or color. It's whether the kid on trial is white or black, it doesn't matter," said Linton.
"The undertones, I don't know. But at one point, it was about race," said Walker.
"It didn't come up where it would affect the decision," said Gordon.
"In my opinion, definitely not. It was not a race issue," said Myrie.
"Something actually did go on, it's just, what level did it reach," said defense attorney Perry Thurston.
Brewer's family said the questions shouldn't matter.
"What we're struggling with is the fact that -- this isn't about race, this isn't about how old anybody was," said Renie Brewer, the victim's grandmother. "This is about unkindness. This is about something that was done to a child who will have to live with this for the rest of his life. Purely and simply."
Bent could receive a new trial. He faces a 15 year prison sentence on the aggravated battery conviction.
The judge will make his decision next Wednesday.
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