FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - A judge heard closing arguments for whether a teenager, convicted for his role in the fiery attack on Michael Brewer, will receive a new trial.
Broward Circuit Judge Matthew Destry listened to closing arguments from prosecutors and attorneys representing Matthew Bent for an hour on Wednesday.
"There's a problem, judge, and we should not let this verdict stand," said Perry Thurston, Bent's attorney.
"These jurors didn't do anything wrong," said prosecutor Scott Raft.
Bent was found guilty of aggravated assault in June for inciting the burning attack on Michael Brewer on October 12, 2009. Police said Brewer was severely burned when one of Bent's friends doused Brewer with paint thinner and set him on fire, nearly killing the teenager.
Following the verdict, one juror came forward and told the court she felt she was pressured into her decision because other jurors were racists, alleging her fellow jurors began discussing the facts of the case and reached a conclusion before closing arguments.
"There were improper deliberations, improper comments regarding racial animosity, and it's certainly has prejudiced our client in terms of having a fair trial," said Thurston.
Raft countered by saying there was no evidence that jurors deliberated early or that the verdict was based on race.
"We know that every individual has prejudices of their own, that resides in their own internal thought process, whether it be racial bias, ethnic bias, religious," said Raft. "We are not going to do a quote 'witch hunt scenario' where we start asking questions about the individual thought process of jurors."
Last week, the judge ordered the six jurors back to court to answer questions about their deliberations before delivering their verdict. Their testimony failed to verify whether jurors reached a conclusion before deliberations began.
"Clearly everyone does have prejudice, but it can't become a part of the deliberation. If we let it become part of the deliberation, then that's injustice," said Thurston.
Bent faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.
The judge is expected to decide on whether Bent will receive on new trial on Monday.
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