Conviction cleared in Michigan fire that killed 5 children

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DETROIT (TUSEN) – A judge on Tuesday (September 22) overturned the murder conviction of a man accused of a fire that killed five children in 2000 after a new prosecutor said the investigation and trial were marred by misconduct he years ago in the suburbs of Detroit.

Juwan Cerf | Credit: MDOC

Juwan Deering will remain in custody while Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald decides whether he should stand a second trial.

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Deering, 50, served 15 years of a life sentence. McDonald said critical evidence that would have cast doubt on the case was “buried in my office files” and not shared with the defense before the 2006 trial.

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“We now know that Mr. Deering did not have 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, although Deering has repeatedly declared his innocence. No one could identify her as being on the property.

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McDonald said his staff discovered video of a police interview with a 13-year-old survivor who viewed a series of photos of potential suspects in 2000 and said Deering was not involved.

Separately, jurors and Deering’s attorney were never made aware that prison informants had obtained any substantial benefit for their testimony against him and in other cases, McDonald said.

Deering is “completely innocent” and “should never have been tried in this case in the first place,” his team at the Innocence Clinic at the University of Michigan Law School said in a court file.

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Law students had previously tried to secure a new trial for Deering, arguing that the analysis of the fire was based on “junk science.” These requests were unsuccessful in Michigan appeals courts.

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