Juror: Guilty 'not my true verdict' in burning case

Defense makes motion for new trial

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - A juror in the trial of Matthew Bent, who was convicted of aggravated battery in the burning of Michael Brewer, claims she was pressured into changing her verdict to guilty.

Karen Bates McCord wrote a letter to the judge this week saying that she made a mistake and feels awful about the way she voted on the Bent verdict. She claims she was pressured to vote guilty when she meant to vote not guilty.

McCord claimed race played a role in the deliberations. She is one of three African-American jurors; the other three are white.

"I strongly believe that Matthew Bent is not guilty based on the evidence given," McCord wrote. "I was pressured into changing my verdict. I had been told by one of the other jurors that I would look at things differently if Michael Brewer had been a black child and Matthew Bent had been a white child. I believe that Matthew Bent did not receive a fair trial as a result of my misunderstanding and the verdict I reached was not my true verdict."

Bent was not convicted of attempted second-degree murder, but was convicted of the lesser charge of aggravated battery in the 2009 attack on Brewer. Prosecutors claimed Bent instigated the attack, during which Brewer was doused with rubbing alcohol and set on fire.

The letter caught Bent's defense team by surprise.

"Naturally, I'm concerned. I don't know if there is, in fact, an issue, but the lady says that some of these type comments were made to her in the back. We want to see if this was a fair verdict, if it was based upon the evidence and not based upon any prejudices," said Bent's attorney, John McCray.

Now, the defense attorney has filed a motion for a new trial. He has asked for the ability to talk to McCord.

Maria Schneider, the prosecutor on the case, was not very sympathetic.

"Unfortunately, there are people who will second-guess themselves, but that is not something that's recognized by a court as being a reason for otherwise invalidating a just and legal verdict," Schneider said.

No one answered the door at McCord's home Friday.

Brewer's family preferred not to comment, as Bent's sentencing is set for July 19.

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