Broward Circuit Judge Michael Robinson has recused himself from the Matthew Bent case, an attorney for the convicted teen confirmed to NBC 6.
Bent, 17, was convicted in June of aggravated battery in the 2009 burning attack on Michael Brewer at a Deerfield Beach apartment complex.
Shortly after the verdict, juror Karen Bates McCord wrote to Robinson and told him she did not believe Bent received a fair trial. She said she did not understand the jury’s instructions and felt pressured to change her decision, particularly after she was accused of being racist by fellow jurors.
Defense attorney Johnny McCray confirmed that Robinson recused himself from the sentencing phase of the trial. Robinson did not explain his recusal, but simply granted the defense’s motion that he step aside.
Bent’s attorneys already asked Robinson for a new trial earlier this month, citing the juror’s statements.
At this point another judge will have to be appointed to hear the case, read the entire transcript of the trial, and then rule on the defense’s motions for a new trial and for a judgment of acquittal. If the judge does not rule in the defense’s favor, he or she would then preside over Bent’s sentencing.
Bent, who prosecutors said was the ringleader of the incident in which Brewer was set on fire, faces up to 15 years in prison. He was the only defendant involved in the attack who went to trial.
Denver Jarvis, 17, who poured rubbing alcohol on Brewer, pleaded no contest to charges related to the attack and has been sentenced to eight 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.