BENTONVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — UPDATE: A judge has granted the defense’s request for a mistrial in the Mauricio Torres case, according to Prosecutor Nathan Smith.
Smith says that jurors were notified that they have been dismissed.
The prosecution and defense will meet on March 19 at 9 a.m. to discuss options moving forward.
Stay with KNWA for updates into this developing story.
“Extraordinary event,” is how defense attorney Jeff Rosenzweig described a witness for the prosecution. Quinton Martin’s testimony was interrupted around 9:30 a.m when he leaped out of the witness stand and over a table in what appeared to be an attempt to reach convicted murderer Mauricio Torres — his stepdad.
Martin, 24, was brought to court in prison attire, shackled and handcuffed — he’s serving time for drugs. He was the prosecution’s first witness in Torres’ sentencing phase Thursday, March 5.
The courtroom was evacuated while law enforcement eventually contained him after he crawled under a table adjacent to his stepdad. Torres jumped up and got out of the way. These actions could be seen on the surveillance video that was shown in court later in the morning in the presence of attorneys and others, but without the jury present.
Do Quinton Martin’s actions jeopardize the sentencing phase?
After the attorneys and judge reviewed the video, the defense asked for a mistrial to be declared, “due to the dangerous circumstance, attack by a witness,” said Rosenzweig, adding that in more than 40 years as a lawyer he had never witnessed anything like that.
“We have video of what happened of an extraordinary, violent attack, [of a man] who jumped over the stand. It was a physical attack … consider aggravated assault and battery [charges],” said Rosenzweig.
The defense supported their mistrial request by citing a 1998 federal court case, where there was a melee in the courtroom. Other cases were also given as examples.
Benton County Prosecutor Nathan Smith, who also cited previous court cases and said a mistrial would be a last resort. One suggestion Smith made was to have the cross-examination continue with Martin having guards placed at each side, or the judge could tell the jury to disregard the incident.
Rosensweig disagreed. “Put him back on [the stand] and risk the same thing?”
Benton County Circuit Court Judge Brad Karren agreed to review the cases during the break that were presented by Smith and Rosenzweig.
Karren had the jurors return to the courtroom and told them they’d reconvene at 2 p.m.