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Broward County teens sentenced for setting fire to school mate

Broward County residents may have heard of a recent Deerfield Beach case involving three teenagers who set fire to another boy. Each defendant was a juvenile at the time of the incident, but they were charged as adults with second-degree attempted murder.

The incident in question dates back to 2009, and the boy who was burned is now 17 years old. He and the defendants were students together at Deerfield Beach Middle School.

In a three-hour interrogation video recorded a day after the incident, one of the defendants, now 18, told how he and a group of boys found a bottle of rubbing alcohol while walking home from school. He goes on to describe how one of his friends, now 17, suggested pouring the alcohol on the boy who was burned. The friend who made the suggestion was said to have a dispute with the victim over a $40 debt.

The boy in the video took responsibility for flicking a lighter and sparking the fire.

Expressing confusion and remorse for his role in the incident, the defendant indicated that he was the last to run away from the scene after the fire was ignited. He was debating with himself whether he should run or help.

When asked why he would spark a lighter near flammable fumes, the teenager said, "I don't know. I wasn't thinking... I thought it wasn't going to light at all."

He and another of the defendants entered no-contest pleas last month. One boy received an 11-year sentence in state prison, and the other boy received an 8-year sentence. The third teen's trial is scheduled to start next week.

As Florida residents know, teenagers often make impulsive and potentially dangerous decisions. When those decisions result in criminal charges, the court should be required to ask some serious questions regarding the future of an accused young person. Does that teenager really deserve to live behind bars because of an act that resulted from youthful negligence? A meaningful criminal defense will require the court to ask such questions, as well as seek to protect the rights of the young person who has been accused of a crime.

Source:, "Teen who set Michael Brewer on fire: 'I wasn't thinking'," March 5, 2012

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Andrew M. Coffey has been recognized as a Board Certified Civil Trial lawyer by the Florida Bar. Certification is the highest level of recognition by The Florida Bar of the competency and experience of attorneys in the areas of law approved for certification by the Supreme Court of Florida.

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