One of the most egregious child murder cases in the state is now overturned. A Bella Vista man sentenced to death for murdering his 6-year-old son is now considered innocent and will get a new trial.
“I think I’ve never been more shocked by a decision of Supreme Court than today,” says Nathan Smith, Benton County Prosecutor.
Mauricio Torres was convicted of capital murder and first-degree battery in November 2016 after prosecutors say he raped, beat and abused his son Isaiah Torres.
According to prosecutors, Torres was on a camping trip in Missouri when he raped and sodomized his son with a stick.
When they returned home to Bella Vista, Isiah was rushed to the hospital and later died from those injuries.
“I felt fairly good that the court would agree with us. I felt we had a strong case, a strong appeal,” says Jeff Rosenzweig, Torres’ Defense Attorney.
Thursday morning the Arkansas Supreme Court voted to overturn Torres’ capital murder charges because all instances of the crime were not committed in Arkansas.
“Traditionally it’s been that a person can’t simply escape culpability of a crime if they’ve committed some instances of the crime in one state and others in another state,” says Smith.
Smith says this is a monumental event for the Arkansas Justice System.
“Majority of states apply the law as Arkansas did until about 10 o’clock this morning. If every state had that view than all that would be required for criminals to do is simply not commit every element in the same state, and then no state would have jurisdiction,” says Smith.
Torres’ defense team says they knew the Arkansas Supreme Court would rule in their favor because of the flaws in the trial.
“We could not tell what he was being convicted of and one of the two alternatives had a fatal legal flaw to it,” says Rosenzweig.
Torres’ other children testified in his original trial about the lifelong abuse they endured from their father. They also spoke about what some of them saw that night on the camping trip, and now they have to do it all over again.
“They will have to relive these things all over again, they will have to appear in court all over again, they will have to reveal the details of their abuse all over again in front of the world,” says Smith.
Smith says while the family is devastated, they are prepared to sentence Torres to death yet again.
According to his defense team, Torres will remain on death row in the correctional facility until the final sentencing of this case is determined.
Smith says he hopes the Attorney General will petition to review the ruling but they are prepared to go to trial if that is the outcome.