BENTON COUNTY, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Judge Brad Karren thanked the jury and complimented them for the way they conducted themselves throughout Mauricio Torres’ third capital murder trial that concluded on February 22.
After one hour on the second day of deliberations, the jury imposed a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole for Torres after the 2015 battery and murder of his six-year-old son, Isaiah. The other possible outcome would have been a death sentence.
The judge called the jury’s work in this case “a Herculean feat” and he thanked them profusely for their time and service. They were officially discharged at 9:52 a.m. and told that they were now free to discuss the case if they chose to.
Several jurors did that and revealed that a majority of the panel was in favor of handing down a sentence of capital punishment for Torres. One juror said that after the first day of deliberations, ten of twelve members indicated they were leaning toward a death sentence.
By Wednesday morning, that ratio had narrowed to nine to three. One juror said that another member had a specific “hang up with the credibility of the witnesses,” referring to Torres’ adult children and a stepdaughter that spoke at a sentencing hearing. The issue of intent was also a significant mitigating factor for the minority of the panel.
“We’re very gratified by the jury’s decision,” said defense attorney Jeff Rosenzweig. “We know they worked hard to come to their conclusion.”
Attorneys from both sides remained behind, discussing the case and answering any questions the jurors had. One juror told prosecutor Nathan Smith that “DHS majorly failed their case” in the way that they responded to reports of Isaiah’s abuse. Smith explained that since those incidents were not the subject of this trial, the vast majority of that evidence was inadmissible in this case.
“He commits a murder,” Smith said. “DHS didn’t fail that.” The prosecutor also explained why some of Torres’ other family members weren’t called to testify, including the stepson that jumped out of the witness box and caused a mistrial in Torres’ second capital murder trial.
Smith explained that Quinton Martin told him, “I made myself a promise, if I saw him again, I’d kill him.”
“The death penalty is reserved for the worst of the worst,” Smith noted. “If that is not Mauricio Torres, it is not deserved for anyone, in any place, ever.”
Benton County deputy prosecuting attorney Joshua Robinson also spoke with some jurors after the sentence was handed down, and he explained that the state was not surprised by the defense’s attempt to shift the focus to the defendant’s wife, Cathy Torres.
“They’re putting her in the worst light they can,” he observed. “Which is their job.”
Some jurors said that their deliberations were never contentious, and that none of them had any moral qualms or an inability to deliver a death sentence if that is what they felt the evidence called for. But ultimately, the mitigating circumstances prevented that for at least a handful of them.
“There should be a certainty from all involved,” one juror noted. “I believe justice was served.”
Torres was taken back into custody as soon as the verdict was read. He was emotional and could be heard thanking Jesus Christ as he was handcuffed and led out of the courtroom.
Torres will remain in Benton County jail before he is assigned to a prison by the Department of Corrections. He told KNWA that he plans to appeal the conviction.