"Former drug dealer found guilty in 9 arson deaths in Ohio" Associated Press, December 14, 2013
CLEVELAND — A former drug dealer was found guilty on Friday at his retrial in the 2005 arson deaths of a woman and eight children at a birthday sleepover — the city’s deadliest house fire.
A US District Court jury handed down the verdict in the case against Antun Lewis, 30, in the fire in an impoverished neighborhood. Lewis also was convicted in the first trial.
Defense attorneys said Friday they believe the tragedy overshadowed the evidence.
‘‘We truly believe that the charges in this case were so horrific, with the deaths of the children and the mother, that the community wanted to hold someone responsible, in spite of what the evidence showed,’’ attorney Angelo Lonardo said, according to the Plain Dealer.
Judge Solomon Oliver, who presided at both trials, ordered the second trial, agreeing with the defense that the government had used unreliable jailhouse informants.
The fire killed Medeia Carter, four of her children, and four other youngsters attending a birthday sleepover party.
Authorities say Lewis, upset over a drug debt, doused the building with gasoline.