The Weekly Vista

Torres gets life in prison


BENTONVILL­E — A jury sentenced Mauricio Torres to life in prison for killing his 6-year-old son.

The eight men and four women deliberate­d for several hours starting Tuesday, Feb. 21, before returning with their verdict the next morning. They had to choose between life imprisonme­nt without the benefit of parole or the death penalty.

Torres, 53, of Bella Vista stood and stared downward as the Benton County Circuit Judge Brad Karren read the verdict sparing Torres of the death sentence.

The jury last week found Torres, 53, guilty of capital murder and battery in the death of Maurice Isaiah Torres. Isaiah died March 30, 2015, from an infection caused when a stick was shoved in his rectum. A medical examiner listed chronic child abuse as a factor in Isaiah’s death.

The jury recommende­d life imprisonme­nt without the benefit of parole and 20 years, along with a $15,000 fine, for the battery.

Karren followed the jury’s recommenda­tion and sentenced Torres to life imprisonme­nt and 20 years for the battery. Karren suspended the fine since Torres will be in prison for the rest of his life.

“I wanna say thank you to the jury,” Torres said before deputies escorted him out of the courtroom.

Torres said “Lord, Jesus Christ,” as he was walking from the courtroom.

Torres said in a 2015 police interview he put the stick in his son’s rectum but later testified his son was holding the stick while doing squats. Torres said Isaiah fell on the stick, and it went inside his rectum.

Jurors saw photograph­s of bruises and wounds covering Isaiah’s body.

Torres admitted he physically abused his son but claimed his wife was responsibl­e for most

of the abuse delivered to Isaiah. Cathy Torres, 51, pleaded guilty in 2017 to capital murder and battery. She was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Prosecutor­s presented testimony at the sentencing from Mauricio Torres’ two adult children and adult stepdaught­er, who said Torres physically and sexually abused them as children.

Torres last week pleaded with jurors to spare his life and not sentence him to death. He also told jurors about being physically and sexually abused.

Benton County Prosecutin­g Attorney Nathan Smith on Tuesday described the case as an ugly and dark one. Smith said the death penalty was a just sentence in the case.

Mercy is an important part of the law, but Torres refuses to admit to killing his son and abusing other children, Smith said. He

said Torres had no sympathy or pity for his son, who was an innocent and vulnerable child.

Jeff Rosenzweig, one of Torres’ attorneys asked the panel for mercy for his client by recommendi­ng the life sentence.

Rosenzweig described Torres as a broken man who did not intend to kill his son. Rosenzweig said Torres could still help others behind prison walls.

Smith talked to several of the jurors outside of the courtroom after the proceeding­s ended.

One juror told Smith the panel was 10-2 Tuesday in favor of the penalty. He said the final vote Wednesday was 9-3.

The juror said they could not convince the three to vote for death.

“It’s a tough case and a difficult one,” Smith said. “I appreciate your service.”

The jurors also spoke to Torres’ defense attorneys.

One juror said Torres’ eight hours of interviews with police had an impact on him. “The right to remain

silent is a powerful thing which he didn’t exercise very well,” the juror said.

It’s the second time a jury has deliberate­d on whether Torres should live or die.

Torres was tried, convicted and sentenced to death in 2016 in his son’s murder, but the state Supreme Court overturned the conviction in 2019 and ordered Torres receive a new trial.

A second jury found Torres guilty of murder and battery. The proceeding­s ended during the sentencing phase March 5, 2020, when a witness jumped from the witness stand box and attempted to attack Torres. A Benton County Sheriff’s Office deputy and a bailiff stopped the witness from reaching Torres.

Judge Brad Karren declared a mistrial and ruled Torres should have another trial. The Arkansas attorney general’s office appealed, but the Arkansas Supreme Court agreed with Karren.

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