Judge steps down from Michael Brewer burning trial

FORT LAUDERDALE - The judge overseeing the Michael Brewer burning trial has stepped down from the case.

Matthew Bent was convicted in June of aggravated battery and faces a maximum prison term of 15 years. Broward Circuit Judge Michael Robinson's decision to step down comes after one juror raised allegations of possible misconduct during deliberations.

The juror, Karen Bates-McCord, said she was confused about the judge's instructions during deliberations and prevented from asking questions that could have led her to hang the jury, which cleared Bent of attempted murder but convicted him of the less serious battery charge.

Bent and two other teenagers, Denver Jarvis and Jesus Mendez, were accused of trying to kill Brewer, then 15, by dousing him with isopropyl alcohol and setting him on fire in the parking lot of a Deerfield Beach apartment complex in October 2009.

Jarvis and Mendez pleaded no contest to second-degree attempted murder charges in February, but Bent, who insisted he was an observer and not a participant in the attack, took his case to trial.

Robinson initially turned down a defense request that he step aside. It was not clear Monday afternoon why he had changed his mind. The six jurors were supposed to come back to court next week to answer questions about their deliberations, but it's not clear whether that will be rescheduled.

Bent and lawyers from both sides are due to appear before Broward Circuit Judge Matthew Destry Tuesday morning to set new dates for hearings and sentencing.