BENTON COUNTY, Ark. (KNWA) — Jury selection is set to begin on Tuesday in the new murder trial for a Bella Vista man accused of raping and killing his 6-year-old son.
It’s the second trial for Mauricio Torres, previously sentenced to death in November 2016 after he was found guilty of capital murder and first-degree battery in the death of his son, 6-year-old Isaiah Torres.
The boy died in March 2015 after a family camping trip in Missouri. A forensic pathologist previously testified that Isaiah died as a result of sexual abuse.
Mauricio Torres’ conviction was overturned in April 2019 after his attorneys argued the state did not prove its case for the death penalty. The Arkansas Supreme Court agreed with Torres’ defense, saying the crime had to have occurred in Arkansas to warrant the death penalty in the state.
Cathy Torres, the mother of Isaiah, took a plea deal in 2017 to avoid the death penalty in the case. She pleaded guilty to capital murder and battery.
She’s now serving a life sentence without parole, along with 20 additional years for battery, and prosecutors could use her as a witness in the case against Mauricio Torres.
This is a well-known case that has already been tried once, so to get an idea of how that could affect the process this time around, KNWA spoke to University of Arkansas Law Professor Brian Gallini.
Gallini said he’s impressed with how quickly the state was able to turn the retrial for Torress.
He said he thought it would’ve been longer.
Gallini said the jury selection will be difficult because it’s a high profile case, but not impossible.
“Just because the prospective jurors know about the defendant and the facts leading to why the defendant is there, that’s not enough to excuse a juror from service,” Gallini said. “Instead we want to know whether despite that knowledge could a prospective juror lay aside their opinion about guilt or innocence and be open to the evidence and apply the facts to the proof beyond a reasonable doubt standard.”
Stay with KNWA News as we continue to cover this developing story.