DETROIT, MI (AP) — A judge on Tuesday erased the murder conviction of a man who was blamed for a fire that killed five children in 2000 after a new prosecutor said the investigation and trial were marred by misconduct years ago in suburban Detroit.
Juwan Deering will remain in custody while Oakland County prosecutor Karen McDonald decides whether he should face a second trial.
Deering, 50, has served 15 years of a life sentence. McDonald said critical evidence that would have cast doubt on the case was “buried in files in my office” and not shared with the defense before the 2006 trial.
“We now know that Mr. Deering did not get a fair trial,” McDonald, a former judge, told Judge Jeffrey Matis.
Children were killed in a fire at a home in Royal Oak Township. Authorities at the time said the fire was revenge for drug debts, though Deering repeatedly declared his innocence. No one could identify him as being at the property.
McDonald said her staff uncovered a video of a police interview with a 13-year-old survivor who had looked at a photo lineup of possible suspects in 2000 and said Deering wasn’t involved.
Separately, jurors and Deering’s lawyer were never told that jail informants won substantial benefits for their testimony against him and in other cases, McDonald said.
Deering is “fully innocent” and “never should have been tried in this case in the first place,” his team at the Innocence Clinic at University of Michigan law school said in a court filing.
Law students earlier had been trying to get a new trial for Deering, arguing that the fire analysis was based on “junk science.” Those requests were unsuccessful in Michigan’s appellate courts.