Michael Brewer to take stand in attempted murder trial

FORT LAUDERDALE - Michael Brewer, the Deerfield Beach teenager who survived after he was set on fire during a confrontation with schoolmates in 2009, is expected to testify today against the young man accused of instigating the attack.

Brewer, now 17, was in the courthouse this week for the last day of jury selection and the first day of testimony in the trial of Matthew Bent, who is on trial for second-degree murder. Bent is accused of ordering or offering to pay another teenager to pour a flammable liquid on Brewer during a confrontation outside the Lime Tree Village apartments in Deerfield Beach.

Bent denies giving any order or making any such offer.

In previous interviews with investigators and lawyers in the case, Brewer has said he does not recall Bent ordering anyone to douse him before he was lit on fire. Other witnesses testified Bent did give an order, but they disagreed on when, where and how it took place.

Outwardly, Brewer does not appear to bear many scars. His mother testified on Tuesday that he suffered burns to 65 percent of his body, but most of those scars are covered by his clothes. Valerie Brewer said her son still requires physical therapy to keep his skin and muscles flexible enough for ordinary activity.

Jurors in the case have already heard from five of the teenagers who were at the scene when Brewer was set ablaze, but their accounts of what happened varied.

Denver Jarvis, who admitted pouring the liquid on Brewer, said Bent offered "$10 to $5" to anyone who would douse Brewer. None of the other witnesses recalled such an offer. He also said Bent was not near Brewer when the liquid was poured, contradicting every other witness in the case.

Jesus Mendez, who admitted he acted on his own when he flicked a lighter and ignited the fumes, refused to cooperate with the trial, telling lawyers on both sides he remembered nothing about that day.

But in an earlier recorded statement, he said Bent signaled Jarvis to pour the liquid. That statement was played for jurors late Wednesday.

Defense lawyer Perry Thurston said during opening statements Tuesday that the evidence, lack of evidence and inconsistencies in the evidence would leave jurors with no choice but to acquit Bent.

But prosecutor Maria Schneider said the law demands Bent be held accountable for endangering Brewer's life, even though no one planned to set Brewer on fire.

Both Mendez and Jarvis are serving prison terms after entering "no contest" pleas in February. Bent faces a maximum of 30 years in prison if convicted.

Testimony in the case resumes at 1:30 Thursday. It's not clear what time Brewer will take the stand.

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