Juror: Deliberations 'based on color of skin'

Defense wants new trial in Matthew Bent case


FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – A juror in the Matthew Bent case claims that "the evidence was never discussed" and that deliberations were "based on color of skin."

Juror Karen Bates-McCord wrote a letter nine days after Bent, 17, was convicted of aggravated battery in the 2009 incident during which Michael Brewer, then 15, was set on fire, saying the other jurors pressured her into the verdict. Bent faced a charge of second-degree attempted murder, but the jury unanimously convicted him of the lesser charge of aggravated battery.

After Bates-McCord's letter, the defense filed a motion for a retrial. A hearing was held Friday, and Bates-McCord was called to testify.

"The deliberation was not based on the evidence. It was based on color of skin, racist and everything. The evidence was never discussed," Bates-McCord said.

Bent, who is black, was accused of instigating the attack on Brewer, who is white. But two other teens are accused of dousing Brewer with an accelerant and actually lighting him on fire.

In her letter, Bates-McCord had said she misunderstood the judge's instructions and would have stood by her verdict had she realized it was OK if it hung the jury.

"At one point, I got up to ring the bell to tell the judge that there was a problem in the back, and another juror stopped me and said, 'You don't have the right to decide this case on your own,'" Bates-McCord said in court Friday.

"What were you going to ring the bell for?" an attorney asked.

"To tell the judge that we couldn't come to an agreement in the back," she said.

Bates-McCord claimed that in the deliberation room, there was "arguing, being called names, and there was no intervention from the court or nothing, so it wasn't that we was getting to any type of agreement, so we was just sitting back there, you know, actually getting in a physical fight."

The judge said he wants to hear from all the jurors before making a decision on a possible retrial. The next hearing is set for July 23, the date when Bent was supposed to have been sentenced. The sentencing will now be delayed.