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Man freed from prison after charges dismissed in Michigan fire that killed 5 children

Juwan Deering, who was sentenced to life in 2006 for the fire-related deaths, walked into court shackled at the waist but walked out as a free man.
Juwan Deering gets a hug outside the courthouse in Pontiac, Mich., on Sept. 30, 2021, after murder charges against him were dropped in a fire that killed five children in suburban Detroit in 2000.
Juwan Deering gets a hug outside the courthouse in Pontiac, Mich., on Sept. 30, 2021, after murder charges against him were dropped in a fire that killed five children in suburban Detroit in 2000.Ed White / AP
/ Source: Associated Press

PONTIAC, Mich. — Murder charges were dismissed Thursday against a man who spent 15 years in prison for the fire-related deaths of five children in suburban Detroit, the climax of an investigation that found misconduct by police and prosecutors.

Juwan Deering, 50, will not face a second trial, Oakland County prosecutor Karen McDonald said. A judge granted a request to close the case against him, a week after Deering's convictions were thrown out at her urging.

Deering walked into court shackled at the waist but walked out as a free man with no restraints.

“It’s been a hard uphill battle,” Deering said moments later, adding that he next wanted “something good to eat.”

McDonald, who was elected in 2020, took a fresh look at Deering's case at the request of the University of Michigan law school's Innocence Clinic.

Favorable evidence was not shared with his defense lawyer, and jurors at the 2006 trial didn't know that jail informants were given significant benefits for their testimony against Deering, McDonald said.

Deering has insisted he was innocent of a fire that killed children at a home in Royal Oak Township in 2000. No one could identify him as being at the property. Authorities at the time said the fire was revenge for unpaid drug debts.

In court, the prosecutor said a dozen law enforcement professionals last week unanimously determined there is insufficient evidence to tie Deering to the fire. The investigation between 2000 and 2006 was “totally compromised by misconduct,” McDonald said.

“There is only one ethical and constitutional remedy,” she said in dropping the case.

Law students earlier had been trying to get a new trial for Deering, arguing that the fire analysis was based on “junk science.” Those requests were unsuccessful in Michigan’s appellate courts.