Today's Paper Newsletters LEARNS Guide Fish Story Contest 🎣 Asa Hutchinson 2024 Today's Photos Public Notices Digital FAQ Razorback Sports Puzzles Crime Distribution Locations Obits

Witness tries to attack and mistrial declared in Torres trial

by Tracy Neal | March 6, 2020 at 2:00 a.m.
Quinton Martin (left) and Mauricio Torres

BENTONVILLE -- A judge declared a mistrial Thursday in the capital murder trial of Mauricio Alejandro Torres after Torres' stepson leaped from his chair and over the railing of the witness box to attack him.

Quenton Martin, 24, was testifying Thursday morning during the sentencing phase of the proceedings.

On Wednesday, the jury found Torres, 50, of Bella Vista guilty of killing his 6-year-old son in 2015. Maurice Isaiah Torres died as a result of bacterial infection after being sodomized with a stick and chronic child abuse. Prosecutors were seeking the death penalty.

Martin, who was dressed in black and white striped jail attire and wearing shackles on his legs, was describing the abuse he endured as a child by Torres. Martin is serving a three-year prison sentence for a drug crime.

[Video not showing up above? Click here to watch »]

"He would beat us with belts, his hands, his fists and anything he could get his hands on," Martin told Stuart Cearley, chief deputy prosecutor.

Cearley asked Martin if Torres had ever sexually abused him.

Martin didn't answer the question but launched from his chair and jumped over the railing. Martin made it to the table where Torres was sitting.

Cearley tried to stop Martin by jumping in front of him, but Martin knocked Cearley backward into a chair.

A Sheriff's Office deputy pulled Martin away before he could get his hands on Torres. Martin was yelling threats at Torres.

Deputies got Torres out of the courtroom and restrained Martin.

Judge Brad Karren immediately sent the jury out of the courtroom. Deputies then tried to calm Martin, who was crying.

Jeff Rosenzweig, one of Torres' attorneys, requested a mistrial.

"I've been practicing 43 years and have never had anything like this happen," Rosenzweig said.

[Video not showing up above? Click here to watch »]

Rosenzweig shielded himself and Torres with a table that had turned over in the melee. "He (Martin) came close to taking out the defendant and me," he said.

Rosenzweig said the incident was prejudicial against his client and not declaring a mistrial would violate his client's constitutional rights.

"This is something that can't be eradicated from the jury's mind," Rosenzweig said.

Benton County Prosecutor Nathan Smith argued against the mistrial. He said there were other alternatives.

Smith said the judge could admonish the jury and ask them to disregard the incident. Smith said Martin could be put back on the witness stand with deputies standing on each side of him.

Smith said a mistrial should be the last resort. He said incidents such as Martin's happen and courts deal with it.

After considering the matter for a couple hours, Karren agreed with Rosenzweig and declared a mistrial. Karren then released the jury from their service.

Karren said there's no conceivable way for the jury to disregard the fear and passion they witnessed and experienced during the incident.

Karren decided Torres will get a new trial but agreed to give prosecutors time to convince him to let the guilty verdicts stand and have a new jury decide Torres' punishment.

The issue will be addressed at a March 19 hearing.

A new trial would be Torres' third.

He was convicted of capital murder and battery and sentenced to death in 2016, but last year the Arkansas Supreme Court overturned the convictions and ordered a new trial.

Rosenzweig believes a mistrial was the only appropriate remedy. "He (the judge) agreed with us," Rosenzweig said. "The jury saw it, and it could not be dealt with by an admonishment."

Smith said, "I am disappointed the jurors and the surviving victims were not able to see this trial to a final conclusion," Smith said. "I argued vigorously that the law allowed the judge to simply admonish the jury to disregard the incident. I am disappointed that the court granted the mistrial over my objection but remain committed to fighting for justice."

Smith said he will not prosecute Martin for his actions in court Thursday.

Torres is being held without bond in the Benton County Jail.

NW News on 03/06/2020

Print Headline: Mistrial declared after courtroom attack


Sponsor Content