CLEVELAND, Dec. 28 (UPI) -- A judge ruled a man accused of starting the deadliest house fire in Cleveland's history will not face a possible death penalty because he is mentally retarded.
U.S. District Judge Solomon Oliver Jr. ruled last week a low IQ and a history of cognitive and behavioral problems rule out capital punishment for 27-year-old Antun Lewis, set to go on trial Jan. 5 for allegedly setting fire to a home in which nine people died, The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer reported.
Prosecutors allege Lewis broke into a Cleveland multifamily home about 3 a.m. on May 21, 2005, and poured gasoline on the floor before lighting it.
Nine people, including eight children, who were at the house for a sleepover died of smoke inhalation.
Lewis has maintained his innocence.
His attorneys had requested a hearing on the argument their client suffered mental dysfunction so severe it precludes him from being sentenced to death.
A spokesman for the U.S. attorneys office would not comment on whether prosecutors plan to appeal the judge's ruling, The Plain Dealer reported.