Conviction to be dropped in Michigan fire that killed 5 kids

Michigan

FILE – In this Aug. 23, 2006, file photo, Juwan Deering listens during his sentencing in Oakland County Circuit Court in Pontiac, Mich. Authorities are dropping a murder conviction against Deering, who is serving a life sentence for a fire that killed five children in suburban Detroit in 2000, a prosecutor said Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021. The case against Deering was spoiled by the failure to share evidence that would have helped his defense, said Oakland County prosecutor Karen McDonald, who was elected last fall. (Richard Lee/Detroit Free Press via AP)

DETROIT (AP) — Authorities are dropping a murder conviction against a man who is serving a life sentence for a fire that killed five children in suburban Detroit in 2000, a prosecutor said Tuesday.

The case against Juwan Deering was spoiled by the failure to share evidence that would have helped his defense, said Oakland County prosecutor Karen McDonald, who was elected last fall.

Deering didn’t get a “fair trial,” she said, adding: “This is a dark day for this office.”

McDonald, noting a new state police investigation of the fire, stopped short of saying the charges would ultimately be dropped.

In 2006, Deering, now 50, was convicted of murder in the deaths in the house fire 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 house.

McDonald said her office discovered a video of an interview with a fire survivor who said Deering didn’t commit the arson.

The prosecutor also said jurors and Deering’s defense lawyer were never informed that jail informants won substantial benefits for their testimony against him. McDonald disclosed that development in May.

Greg Townsend was the assistant prosecutor who took Deering to trial in 2006. Now a Michigan assistant attorney general, he was removed last spring from the team handling an alleged kidnapping plot against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

The Innocence Clinic at University of Michigan law school had been trying to get a new trial for Deering, arguing that the fire analysis was based on “junk science,” but those efforts were unsuccessful in Michigan’s appellate courts.

McDonald said she will join a new request by Deering’s attorneys to have a judge throw out the murder conviction.

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