LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — The Arkansas Supreme Court heard oral arguments regarding the Mauricio Torres mistrial case Thursday morning, January 28.
The state’s high court will make a decision if Torres’ capital murder trial will go to the sentencing phase or be completely retried.
In March 2020, a second mistrial was declared on the first day of the sentencing phase, when Torres’ stepson jumped out of the witness box and headed toward the attorneys.
November 2016 was the first time Torres was found guilty of the capital murder of his son Isaiah, 6. However, the conviction was overturned by the state’s high court in 2019 because the crime happened in Missouri and not in Arkansas.
Justice Wood’s query pertained to Arkansas having a unitary jury system, “If there is a mistrial, why wouldn’t it be one trial?” she asked Assistant Attorney General Vada Berger.
Justice Womack mentioned to Berger that the guilty verdict was not entered into court records. Justice Wood added, “No order was entered. Was a conviction entered? Can a judge enter a conviction without a sentence?
Justice Hudson requested Berger to give statute(s) that specifies two different juries can decide a case.
Arkansas Assistant Attorney General Vada Berger Statement
Therefore, the statute’s text supports the state’s argument and it might be added that the text does not require analysis of words in isolation but requires consideration of the statutory scheme as a whole, the text as a whole, and it is clear here that this court and the legislature have concluded that the statutory scheme as a whole does not require a redetermination of guilt due to error in the punishment phase. The state submits that the trial court decision as to granting a new trial as to both guilt and punishment for an error occurring in the sentencing phase is an act in excess in its jurisdiction, erroneous on the face of the record, and a manifest and gross abuse of discretion serving only to grant Torres a gratuitous third chance at an acquittal. Consequently, the state’s position for a Writ of Cert should be granted and the case remanded in order for the trial court to conduct a new sentencing proceeding.State Asst. AG Berger
Defense Attorney Jeff Rosenzweig Statement
If we have a new jury, will they have accurate information? We don’t want to risk something where we’ll have another reversal. “Hopefully, we won’t get there. Hopefully, the court will rule that the law is explicit under the circumstances … gotta’ have the same jury to decide guilt and penalty. We ask that the court deny the state’s writ. And send it back to the Benton circuit court for trial on guilt, and if guilt is determined then a penalty phase.Torres’ Attorney Jeff Rosenzweig
“Today, the Attorney General’s office argued why Mauricio Torres should only be resentenced for the horrific murder of his six-year-old son. Torres has been convicted twice and there is no need to put the victim’s family through another trial. We are hopeful the Arkansas Supreme Court will grant the petition.”Attorney General Leslie Rutledge