Update: Mauricio Torres found guilty of capital murder in death of 6-year-old son | Arkansas Blog

Monday, November 14, 2016

Update: Mauricio Torres found guilty of capital murder in death of 6-year-old son

Posted By on Mon, Nov 14, 2016 at 4:26 PM

click to enlarge MAURICIO TORRES: The defendant arriving at the Benton County courthouse on Tuesday, Nov. 8. - KRIS JOHNSON
  • KRIS JOHNSON
  • MAURICIO TORRES: The defendant arriving at the Benton County courthouse on Tuesday, Nov. 8.

A Benton County jury this morning found Mauricio Torres, 45, guilty of capital murder and first degree battery after a brief deliberation. The jury heard closing arguments from attorneys this morning after the defense rested without calling witnesses.

The trial will not be over, however, until sentencing is complete. This afternoon, the jury has heard from a number of other children and stepchildren of Mauricio Torres who claim their father or stepfather subjected them to physical and sexual abuse in the early 2000s. The jury will determine whether to sentence Torres to death or life in prison without parole. We'll have full coverage of the sentencing phase after it's complete.

Torres is the Bella Vista father accused of killing his 6-year-old son, Isaiah Torres, early last year. The child's mother, Cathy Torres, will be tried for murder separately next year.

Last week, prosecutors spent three days building their case against Torres, including hours of recorded police interviews with the defendant and testimony from one of Isaiah's sisters as to the abuse her parents directed towards her younger brother. Dr. Stephen Erickson, the medical examiner who performed the autopsy, showed the jury graphic photos of scars, bruises, lacerations and puncture wounds covering the boy's body, and told them that there was "no doubt whatsoever that this child was subjected to a prolonged period of abuse" before he suffered the injury that caused his death: a stick inserted into his anus, which caused acute peritonitis and led to septic shock.

Torres did not take the stand in the trial.

The evidence that Mauricio and Cathy Torres are responsible for Isaiah's death was incontrovertible. Mauricio admitted to police that he did indeed insert the stick into his son's anus, as "punishment," on a camping trip the family took to Missouri on March 29, 2015. According to the defendant, Cathy Torres then shoved the boy in anger, which caused the fatal trauma. Mauricio Torres claimed they didn't realize the boy was severely injured, and that they thought he was only suffering from a "stomach ache" when they drove back home to Arkansas that evening; they gave him Pepto Bismal. The parents called 911 that night, and Isaiah was pronounced dead at the hospital soon thereafter.

With a guilty verdict of some kind virtually a foregone conclusion, the real question was always whether the jury would convict Torres on the charge of capital murder or the lesser included offense of first degree murder. That question led to two others. First, should what Mauricio Torres did to his son be considered rape, or could it be construed as an exceptionally cruel but nonsexual form of punishment? Second, did Torres intend to actually cause Isaiah's death? To win a capital murder conviction, prosecutors needed to prove one or the other: either that rape occurred or that Torres "knowingly caused the death of a child."

In the recorded police interviews, Torres seems confused as to why his behavior would be considered rape, and defense attorneys argued that the punishment — while grotesque — was not sexual in nature. But Benton County Prosecutor Nathan Smith told the jury this morning that Isaiah's death was a "sadistic act of sexual torture. … You know that is an act of sexual gratification just based on common sense.”

Defense attorney Bill James argued that there was no evidence Mauricio Torres did what he did to Isaiah for sexual gratification. "This is not a rape case. There’s absolutely no proof of that. You can assume all you want, but the problem is that … [the prosecutor] has to prove it," he said. But Smith said that line of argument was "absurd" and that the defense was effectively arguing that "the worse a rape becomes ... the more demented it becomes … the less criminal it is." Smith said, "you can’t crawl up in the defendant’s head and read his mind. No one can do that. You look to his actions and the surrounding circumstances."

As for the second route to capital murder, Smith argued, Mauricio Torres — who worked as an occupational therapist assistant — would have known his and his wife's actions would likely lead to their son's death. The prosecutor reminded the jury of something the medical examiner said yesterday: Had Isaiah Torres' injuries been treated quickly, the boy would have likely survived. "Had they [called 911] a couple hours after the fact, he’d probably be alive today. Why didn’t they? Because they had committed a crime,” Smith said. And even if the defendant's account of Cathy's role in the murder was accurate, "you have the concept of accomplice liability as well."

James told the jury the prosecutor was "hoping you’re going to disregard the facts and go with emotion on this.” He’s argued from the beginning that Smith’s team was attempting to “throw gas on the fire” by alleging rape and by eliciting testimony from Isaiah’s sister, a young child, which contained various shocking allegations. He pointed out that some lurid details described by the girl couldn’t be substantiated. "The truth has got to stand for something, no matter how bad this case is,” he said.

The jury evidently found it quite easy to conclude capital murder occurred, however. After a break for lunch following closing arguments, it took less than an hour to reach its verdict.

Tags: , , , ,

From the ArkTimes store

Favorite

Comments (7)

Showing 1-7 of 7

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-7 of 7

Add a comment

More by Benjamin Hardy

  • Senate bill imperils rural health care, hospital leaders warn

    In the four years since Arkansas chose to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, Harris Medical Center in Newport has seen its “bad debt” — bills left unpaid by patients — cut in half. Eight percent of the 133-bed hospital’s patients fell into the bad debt category in 2013, the year before Arkansas created the hybrid Medicaid expansion program known as the private option (later rebranded by Governor Hutchinson as “Arkansas Works”). Today, that figure is 4 percent, according to Harris Medical Center CEO Darrin Caldwell.
    • Jul 13, 2017
  • Beyond repeal of Obamacare

    The proposed Medicaid cuts in the new U.S. Senate bill could impact coverage for 400,000 Arkansas children.
    • Jun 29, 2017
  • Study: Arkansas tops nation for percentage of rural children on Medicaid

    Almost two-thirds of children in Arkansas’s small towns and rural areas receive health care coverage through Medicaid, according to a report released Wednesday by researchers at Georgetown University and the University of North Carolina — the highest percentage of any state in the nation.
    • Jun 7, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Federal judge wants John Goodson to explain class action maneuvering

    A show-cause order filed Monday by federal Judge P.K. Holmes of Fort Smith indicates class action attorney John Goodson has some explaining to do about the move of a class action complaint against an insurance company from federal to state court with an instant pre-packaged settlement that has been criticized as a windfall for Goodson.
    • Dec 22, 2015
  • Speaking of the Clinton Foundation: Returns in maize and beans

    A reporter for Politifact, the Pulitzer Prize-winning fact-checking organization, sent a reporter to Africa to see where money given to the Clinton Foundation has been put to work. He found tangible results.
    • Sep 6, 2016
  • Super Bowl line

    Over to you.
    • Feb 7, 2016

Most Shared

  • So much for a school settlement in Pulaski County

    The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's Cynthia Howell got the scoop on what appears to be coming upheaval in the Pulaski County School District along with the likely end of any chance of a speedy resolution of school desegregation issues in Pulaski County.
  • Riverfest calls it quits

    The board of directors of Riverfest, Arkansas's largest and longest running music festival, announced today that the festival will no longer be held. Riverfest celebrated its 40th anniversary in June. A press release blamed competition from other festivals and the rising cost of performers fees for the decision.
  • Football for UA Little Rock

    Andrew Rogerson, the new chancellor at UA Little Rock, has decided to study the cost of starting a major college football team on campus (plus a marching band). Technically, it would be a revival of football, dropped more than 60 years ago when the school was a junior college.
  • Turn to baseball

    When the world threatens to get you down, there is always baseball — an absorbing refuge, an alternate reality entirely unto itself.

Most Viewed

  • Football is king, Bentonville edition

    Good analysis in the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette of an unannounced Bentonville School Board vote last week to put $2 million into a football stadium for West High School despite board assurances in last May's tax election that no money would go to a football stadium.
  • But what about the Clintons? Last refuge of Trump, New York Times

    Trying to compare Donald Trump's reaction to the Russia investigation with Bill Clinton's dealings with Kenneth Starr should be a non-starter if the facts mattered. But these days — and to the New York Times — it ain't necessarily so.

Most Recent Comments

Blogroll

 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation