The jury began deliberations on Monday in the trial of a South Florida teen accused of setting his classmate on fire. Defense attorney Johnnie McCray spoke about his client's accusations and prosecutor Maria Schneider called the crime "serious."
The jury began deliberations on Monday in the trial of a South Florida teen accused of setting his classmate on fire.
Matthew Aaron Bent, 17, is charged with second-degree attempted murder in the Oct. 12, 2009 attack on Michael Brewer at a Deerfield Beach apartment complex.
"Matthew Bent is not actually charged with setting Michael Brewer on fire. The government wants you to believe he was a ringleader, that there was a conspiracy hatched in 10 minutes," said defense attorney Johnnie McCray.
Bent faces 30 years behind bars if he's found guilty.
The jury deliberated for nearly three hours Monday, and will reconvene at 9 a.m. Tuesday.
Last Thursday, Brewer took the stand to recount the horrifying encounter in which rubbing alcohol was poured on him before he was set on fire.
"I felt like I was going to die," Brewer said, as he recalled jumping into a nearby pool to douse the flames. “I started running towards the pool and then I jumped a fence and dove toward the swimming pool."
Brewer, who was 15 at the time of the attack, said he remembered a woman and someone else pulling him from the pool and seeing skin hanging down from his arms.
"I was in tons of pain," he said.
Brewer was burned on over 60 percent of his body and spent months in the hospital recovering from his injuries.
Prosecutors say Bent was the ringleader of the burning attack, persuading two other teens to pour the alcohol on Brewer and set him on fire after a dispute over money Bent claimed Brewer owed him.
Under cross-examination, Brewer admitted that he lied in a deposition about the cause of a dispute between him and Bent. He acknowledged that he previously said their dispute was over a video game, and did not suggest anything about drugs as the cause.
But on Thursday he said they had been having a dispute over money because Bent had tried to sell him a bowl, in which one can smoke marijuana or tobacco, but he did not want it.
Denver Jarvis, 17, who poured the liquid on Brewer, pleaded no contest to charges related to the attack and has been sentenced to 8 years in prison with a probation term of 22 years. Jesus Mendez, 18, who pulled out a lighter and set Brewer on fire, also pleaded no contest and was sentenced to 11 years in prison following by 19 years of probation.
Looking at Brewer in the courtroom, McCray said: "I empathize with him, I empathize. I'm sorry that Jesus Mendez set him afire, but I also empathize with this young man the same age who's been wrongly accused." He pointed at Bent.
In her closing argument, prosecutor Maria Schneider urged jurors to hold Bent accountable for his actions.
"Bent says 'I'm going to pay someone $5 to hurt Michael, to beat Michael," she said. "This is not child's play. This is serious."