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Jury selection begins in Bella Vista’s man third trial on charges he abused his son to death

Death sought in boy’s fatal injury by Tracy Neal | February 3, 2023 at 2:56 a.m.
Mauricio Torres appears in court Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023, for the start of jury selection in his trial. Torres is accused of capital murder and battery in connection with the death of his 6-year-old son in 2015. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Tracy Neal)

BENTONVILLE -- Two people were selected Thursday to serve on Mauricio Torres' third capital murder trial.

The proceedings were scheduled to begin Monday, but were postponed because of the weather.

The attorneys selected the two after questioning six prospective jurors.

Torres, 53, of Bella Vista is accused of shoving a stick in his 6-year-old son's rectum, causing an infection that led to the boy's death.

Maurice Isaiah Torres, 6, died March 30, 2015, at a Bella Vista medical clinic, according to court documents.

Mauricio Torres is charged with capital murder and battery. He has pleaded innocent to the charges. If convicted of capital murder, Torres will be sentenced to death or life imprisonment without the benefit of parole.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Benton County Circuit Judge Brad Karren conducted his initial questioning of jurors Thursday morning. The prospective jurors were put in groups of three and given times to report back to be questioned by the attorneys.

Four more panels will be questioned today.

Torres, who is being held without bail in the Benton County jail, was tried, convicted and sentenced to death in 2016 in his son's murder, but the state Supreme Court overturned the conviction in 2019 and ordered Torres be given a new trial.

A second jury found Torres guilty of murder and battery charges. The proceedings ended during the sentencing phase March 5, 2020, when a witness jumped from the witness stand box and attempted to attack Torres. A Benton County sheriff's deputy and a bailiff stopped the witness from reaching Torres. Karren declared a mistrial and ruled Torres should have another trial. The Arkansas attorney general's office appealed Karren's decision, but the Arkansas Supreme Court agreed with Karren.

Karren issued a gag order prohibiting the attorneys from publicly commenting on the case.

Prosecutors presented evidence in the previous trials showing the boy was repeatedly abused. During both of Torres' first two trials, a medical examiner testified the boy's death was caused by a bacterial infection resulting from sodomy and chronic child abuse.

Cathy Torres, Mauricio Torres' wife, pleaded guilty in 2016 to capital murder and battery and was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole. She testified during Torres' second trial and blamed her husband for abusing their son. She is on the witness list for the third trial.

The trial is expected to last two to three weeks.

Karren instructed the two jurors selected Thursday to report back at 8:30 a.m. Feb. 10.

  photo  Mauricio Torres walks through the halls Thursday Feb. 2, 2023 of the Benton County Courthouse. Torres is facing capital murder and battery charges. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/TRACY NEAL)

Print Headline: Jury pick starts in 3rd trial for father


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