BENTON COUNTY, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Mauricio Torres’ defense team has filed a reply brief after the prosecution in his upcoming murder trial moved to prevent any reference to his wife’s plea agreement and prison sentence.
Torres has already been convicted twice for the abuse and killing of his six-year-old son, Isaiah Torres, during a weekend camping trip in 2015. The first was overturned on a sentencing technicality, and the second was declared a mistrial when Torres’ stepson jumped out of the witness stand and attempted to attack him during sentencing.
Jury selection began on February 2 in Benton County circuit court in the third capital murder trial for Torres, and Judge Brad Karren has set aside a significant amount of time to complete the voir dire process. That same day, prosecutor Nathan Smith filed a motion in limine to prevent the introduction of certain mitigating circumstances in the case and to limit testimony related to the sentence of the defendant’s wife, Cathy Torres.
In 2017, she agreed to a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole, avoiding a possible death sentence. The state has already announced its intent to seek the death penalty against Torres in his third trial.
In its February 2 filing, the prosecution objected to the defense statement that “equity in sentencing is appropriate because Cathy Torres received a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for her involvement in the death of Isaiah Torres,” calling that “irrelevant to the issue of punishment” for Mauricio Torres.
Smith’s motion cited a previous relevant case that found the “sentence of a co-defendant in a capital murder case was irrelevant as a mitigating circumstance.” It also asked for any testimony about Cathy Torres’ sentence to be excluded as irrelevant.
On February 4, the defense filed a response, arguing that precluding the mention of Cathy Torres’ sentence would be a violation of Mauricio Torres’ Constitutional rights. It also noted that “Cathy Torres testified in the 2020 trial and basically asserted her innocence, thereby contradicting her guilty plea.”
“The probative value of the evidence outweighs the prejudicial effect to a party. It is impossible to see how the State is prejudiced by the elicitation of the plea and sentence of Cathy Torres when the credibility of Cathy Torres’s claims is at issue in this case if and when she testifies in this trial.”
Mauricio Torres response to motion regarding conviction and sentence of Cathy Torres, Feb. 4
Cathy Torres has already been listed as a potential witness in the upcoming trial, and Nathan Smith has informed potential jury members that this trial will solely pertain to Mauricio Torres, not her.
The defense response continued by noting that a refusal to admit reference to her sentence would “violate Mauricio Torres’s federal and state rights of confrontation and the right to present a defense.” It also cited case law supporting its stance that Cathy Torres’ conviction and sentence can be added as mitigating circumstances in the upcoming trial.
It added that precluding such testimony would violate Torres’ Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights.
“Mauricio Torres should be able to argue Cathy Torres’s sentence as a circumstance of the offense that the defendant proffers as a basis for a sentence less than death,” the reply said.
Jury selection continued on February 7 and it is scheduled to conclude by the end of the week.