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Retrial of accused arsonist Antun Lewis under way soon

12:25 PM, Oct 27, 2013   |    comments
  • Courtesy: The Plain Dealer
    
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CLEVELAND -- Potential jurors in the retrial of accused arsonist Antun Lewis will begin arriving at 9 a.m. Monday in federal court.

That's according to the latest ruling last week from U.S. District Court Judge Solomon Oliver Jr.

Jury selection should be under way by Friday and final jury selection should be done by Monday, Nov. 4.

Oliver expects to hear opening statements starting Tuesday Nov. 5.

Back in June, Oliver ordered Lewis, now 30, back to Cleveland from a federal prison in Milan, Michigan. He has been held in the Cuyahoga County Jail since then so that his attorneys could prepare for the retrial.

Back in February 2012, Oliver postponed Lewis' sentencing after a jury convicted him. The postponement basis was pending a decision on Oliver's motion for a new trial.

Federal prosecutors appealed Oliver's motion.

In April, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati upheld Oliver's ruling and unanimously granted Lewis a new trial for the 2005 house fire that killed 9 people.

The May 21, 2005, fire killed Medeia Carter, 33, four of her children and four other children attending a 14th birthday sleepover. Gasoline had been poured inside the home and ignited.

Oliver had said that "the bulk of the evidence against him came from suspect witnesses, career criminals and jailhouse informants."

"In so ruling, it is important to note that the court does not find that Lewis did not commit the arson or that there was no evidence at all which would support a conviction,'" Oliver said, in a 95-page ruling.

Oliver had already ruled out the death penalty because of Lewis' low IQ. Lewis had been charged with one federal count of arson because the house was rented with a federal subsidy.

Once the re-trial was affirmed, Oliver ordered the City of Cleveland building department to inspect the East 87th Street house to be sure that it is in a condition safe enough to allow viewings by prosecutors, defense attorneys and, eventually, a jury.

Lewis has always maintained his innocence. He knew some of the victims and says he would never harm a child.

Oliver has also ordered that the trial will be in session until its conclusion each business day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The trial will be suspended from Thursday, Nov. 7 through Monday, Nov. 11 (Veterans Day), and will resume at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 12. It will also be suspended over the Thanksgiving holiday.

Oliver expects the trial to go through December.

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