Judge steps down in Florida burning case

July 31, 2012 at 12:41 PM
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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla., July 31 (UPI) -- The sentencing of a Florida teenager in the burning of a 15-year-old has been put on hold after the judge hearing the case stepped down.

Circuit Judge Michael Robinson agreed to step away from the case after the attorney for defendant Matthew Bent argued the judge had improper contact with a juror, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported.

Bent was convicted on June 19 of pouring isopropyl alcohol on Matthew Brewer, then 15, in the parking lot of an apartment complex in October 2009 and setting him on fire.

About a week after the verdict, a woman juror in the case contacted the judge. She said she had been confused about the judge's instructions to the jury and that if her questions had been answered she might have voted for acquittal.

Robinson had his assistant call the juror and invite her to his chambers and did not notify the defense or prosecution.

Bent's attorney, Johnny McCray, argued that call was improper. He did not know if the juror actually met with the judge.

Sentencing in the case has been suspended until a new judge can rule if McCray's request for a new trial should be granted.

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