Brewer family losing patience with delays in burning trial

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - The family of Michael Brewer is growing impatient with the slow pace of the justice system, a prosecutor said Thursday.

Assistant State Attorney Maria Schneider said that Brewer, 17, and his family have been waiting more than two years for the trial to begin for the three schoolmates accused of surrounding him in a Deerfield Beach parking lot and setting him on fire in October 2009.

Broward Circuit Judge Michael Robinson ordered lawyers to file any remaining motions in the case by Jan. 10. But even if all four lawyers meet that deadline, the case is still expected to drag on.

Attorney Gordon Weekes, who represents accused ringleader Matthew Bent, wants his client tried separately from the two others, an acknowledgment that the defendants will not present a united front to fight the charges.

Bent and the other defendants, Denver Jarvis, 17, and Jesus Mendez, 18, have each been charged with second-degree attempted murder and face 30 years in prison if convicted.

All are in custody. Weekes said the delays so far are a consequence of three defense lawyers needing to coordinate their schedules with the prosecutor and with dozens of witnesses.

Prosecutors say Bent targeted Brewer for retaliation after Brewer's family called 911 to report that Bent had stolen a bicycle from their property. Bent allegedly ordered Jarvis to pour rubbing alcohol on Brewer. Mendez is accused of being the one who flicked a lighter to taunt Brewer, igniting the blaze.

Brewer, who survived by jumping into a nearby swimming pool, suffered severe burns over two-thirds of his body. He has since recovered, and his family has moved to West Palm Beach.

Mendez's lawyer has also asked to be taken off the case, which would result in the appointment of a new lawyer and more delays.

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