Jurors were interviewed Friday on whether racial animosity and other misconduct occurred during deliberations in the trial of Matthew Bent. Karen Bates McCord, who made the allegations, was one of many jurors interviewed in court. Bent's attorney Perry Thurston and Michael Brewer's grandmother, Reenie Brewer, also discussed the case.
Matthew Bent walked back into a courtroom Friday, hoping to hear the jurors who convicted him say something that would get him a new trial.
Jurors were interviewed Friday on whether racial animosity and other misconduct occurred during deliberations in the trial of Bent, 18, the alleged ringleader of a group that set a middle school classmate on fire.
Bent was convicted in June of aggravated battery for the 2009 attack on Michael Brewer, who was 15 at the time. Brewer survived by jumping into an apartment complex swimming pool.
After the conviction, juror Karen Bates McCord sent the initial judge on the case a letter saying that she was pressured into voting guilty, that jurors discussed the case before deliberations, and that another juror called her a racist.
"The racial calling, all the names, it was just a total chaos in the jury room, bottom line it was a chaos," she said Friday.
Bates McCord said another woman called her a racist, but other jurors disputed her assertions.
All of the jurors who convicted Bent testified, and only Bates McCord said some of them talked about the case before deliberations began.
"The testimony was all over the place, some people say things happened, others say nothing happened," said Bent's attorney, Perry Thurston.
In the courthouse hallway, Bates McCord said she did feel pressured to vote guilty, as she wrote in her letter. But she didn't tell that to Broward Circuit Judge Matthew Destry Friday "because he didn't let me answer the questions how I wanted to," she said.
Brewer's family watched the testimony, on the anniversary of the fiery attack.
"Oh my God, today's the day, three years ago today we sat in a little room at Ryder Trauma Center and waited for them to tell us whether he was alive or dead," said Reenie Brewer, the grandmother of Michael Brewer.
Bent could get a new trial if the judge decides there was sufficient misconduct.
He faces a maximum 15-year prison sentence if his conviction stands. Two other teenagers are serving prison terms after pleading no contest to attempted murder charges.