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story.lead_photo.caption Mauricio Torres is escorted out of the Benton County Courthouse Annex in June in Bentonville. (File photo/NWA Democrat-Gazette/Charlie Kaijo)

BENTONVILLE -- Prosecutors and defense attorneys for Mauricio Alejandro Torres oppose a judge's appointment of a special master to investigate a disturbance that led to a mistrial in the murder case.

Torres, 50, of Bella Vista is charged with capital murder and battery in connection with the abuse and death of his 6-year-old son. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

A jury found Torres guilty of the charges on March 4.

Quinten Martin was testifying during the sentencing phase March 5 and leaped from the witness stand in an attempt to attack Torres. Martin is Torres' stepson and became upset after he was asked whether Torres had sexually abused him.

The disturbance happened in front of the jury. Jeff Rosenzweig, one of Torres' attorneys, requested a mistrial. Benton County Prosecuting Attorney Nathan Smith objected.

Benton County Circuit Judge Brad Karren granted the mistrial but gave prosecutors time to file a motion asking him to reconsider the decision.

Karren has also appointed Tim Cullen, a Little Rock attorney, to act as special master to investigate Martin's outburst in court.

It was Torres' second trial. He was convicted of the same charges and sentenced to death in 2017, but the Arkansas Supreme Court last year overturned the convictions and ordered a new trial.

Mauricio Isaiah Torres died March 30, 2015, at a Bella Vista medical clinic. A medical examiner testified the boy's death was caused by a bacterial infection resulting from sodomy and chronic child abuse.

Smith filed a motion Friday objecting to the appointment of the special master, who is appointed by a judge to hear evidence on behalf of the judge and then make recommendations.

Smith says in the motion he's unsure why the court appointed the special master since Rosenzweig and Karren agreed prosecutors didn't act in bad faith in connection with Martin's conduct.

The motion questions whether Karren has the authority to appoint a special master in a criminal case.

Smith and his deputies, Stuart Cearley and David James, are on the list of witnesses to testify about Martin's outburst.

Smith's motion argues calling prosecutors to testify in the case may create problems. Torres' attorneys could seek to disqualify the Benton County Prosecuting Attorney's Office if they are called as witnesses, according to court documents.

Rosenzweig filed a response to Smith's motion in which he claims Karren doesn't have legal justification to appoint the special master in a criminal case. Rosenzweig is also concerned about the precedent of calling prosecutors as witnesses in the case.

Rosenzweig wants Karren to request the Arkansas Supreme Court to investigate the incident after Torres' case is resolved.

Smith also filed a motion last week asking Karren to reconsider his decision and allow Torres' guilty verdict stand. A new jury could be impaneled to decide his punishment, the motion says.

Karren scheduled a hearing for Thursday on the reconsideration motion and for testimony concerning Martin's outburst.

NW News on 03/17/2020

This story was originally published at 1:00 a.m.

Print Headline: Attorneys against special master in Torres' case

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