Thursday, June 5
CLEVELAND (AP) — A federal judge on Thursday denied a request for another trial for a man twice convicted of killing a woman and eight children at a sleepover in the city's deadliest arson fire.
The judge also denied a motion seeking dismissal of the arson charge against defendant Antun Lewis.
Lewis is scheduled for sentencing Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Cleveland. The 30-year-old Lewis was deemed ineligible for the death penalty because of a mental disability.
Defense attorney Timothy Ivey said he was disappointed in Judge Solomon Oliver's decision to deny a request for a third trial for Lewis, a former drug dealer. He said Lewis maintains his innocence and has passed two lie-detector tests.
The fire killed 33-year-old Medeia Carter, four of her children and four other youngsters attending a birthday sleepover party on May 21, 2005. More than 4,000 people attended their funerals at Cleveland's convention center.
Authorities said Lewis, upset over a drug debt, doused the three-story building's first floor with gasoline. Lewis, who knew some of the victims, denied wrongdoing and said he was home several blocks away when the fire started.
Lewis' conviction in his first trial was dismissed after the judge ruled jailhouse informants used by prosecutors were unreliable.
After Lewis was found guilty at his retrial in December, defense attorneys said they believed the enormous tragedy overshadowed the evidence in the case.