Pontiac — An Oakland County Circuit Court judge on Tuesday granted a new trial for a man serving life in prison for a 2000 arson fire that killed five children.
Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Jeffrey Matis ruled Juwan Deering’s constitutional rights were violated following oral arguments from Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald, who in an unusual twist, urged the judge to toss the conviction.
Deering has severed 14 years of a life sentence for the Royal Oak Township fire.
Matis declined to release Deering on bond. McDonald could dismiss the case against Deering. She is expected to make a decision by next week, officials said Tuesday.
McDonald and attorneys with the Michigan Innocence Project contend there was prosecutorial misconduct and that Deering did not receive a fair trial.
“Everyone is entitled to due process of law,” McDonald told Matis Tuesday. “Juwan Deering is entitled to due process of law.”
Deering, now 50, was sentenced to life in prison in 2006 for a fatal fire on Pasadena Street in Royal Oak Township in April 2000 that claimed the lives of Taleigha Dean, 10; Craig Dean, 8; Aaron Dean, 7; Eugene Dean, 5; and an 11-year-old friend, Michelle Frame.
McDonald and the innocence group filed a motion seeking to have Deering’s life sentence vacated and dismissed after an independent probe of the case found possible ethical violations by an assistant prosecutor involved in Deering’s case as well as new evidence.
McDonald reviewed the case in May at the request of the Michigan Innocence Project, which raised questions about evidence and the credibility of three jailhouse informants that weren’t disclosed to Deering’s defense attorney or the jury at the time of his trial.
Deering was convicted on evidence which included an arson investigation critics claim was flawed by outdated science, his reputation as a neighborhood drug dealer who was owed a debt by the victims’ father, Oliver Dean, and largely, the word of cellmates who claimed he shared information about his involvement in the fatal fire.
The Michigan Innocence Project said disproving the arson theory was significant because “a determination that the fire started inside the home would derail the prosecutor’s case because it would contradict the informants testimony.”
During an August news conference, McDonald played a video clip which showed a forensic interviewer, May Kaye Neuman, and Oakland County Sheriff’s Detective David Wurtz interviewing Timm Dean, then 13, the oldest sibling home at the time of the fire.
The teen said he was on a living room couch when he heard a voice he recognized, saw the fire on the porch, went to his mother’s bedroom and tried to get some of his siblings out of the house.
Timm Dean, who did not testify at trial, was later shown a photo “lineup” which included Deering. The teen said he recognized Deering as someone who lived in his neighborhood but Dean said Deering was not the person he heard outside the home before the fire. The teenager stressed he did not believe Deering — the person whose photo he identified — set the fire.
Deering did not testify in his own defense and at sentencing insisted he had nothing to do with the crime.