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Ohio man found guilty of setting fire that killed nine

CLEVELAND (Reuters) - A federal jury on Monday found a 27-year-old Ohio man guilty of a 2005 arson fire that killed nine people, including eight children.

Antun Lewis may face a life sentence in jail for the May 21, 2005 fire at a Cleveland home rented by Medeia Carter. Lewis was accused of pouring gasoline on the first floor of Carter's house, causing the fire to quickly spread and windows to burst.

The young victims were spending the night at Carter's home for a birthday party.

Prosecutors had said last year they would seek the death penalty, but U.S. District Judge Solomon Oliver ruled that Lewis was shown to be "intellectually disabled or mentally retarded," and therefore not eligible.

The prosecution's case, which began late last month, centered around testimony from fellow inmates who testified that Lewis confessed his guilt and that of another convicted felon who acted as a look-out.

The defense presented witnesses who countered the prosecution's case giving Lewis an alibi for the time leading up to the fire. Both sides acknowledged that Lewis was acquainted with Carter and others in the house.

The trial was in federal court because Carter's lease was subsidized by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

(Reporting by Kim Palmer, Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Greg McCune)

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