Penalty phase for Sierra LaMar's convicted killer to begin
SAN JOSE, Calif. (KTVU) - The penalty phase of the Antolin Garcia-Torres trial is set to begin Tuesday. Jurors will decide if the 26-year-old should receive the death penalty or life without parole for kidnapping and killing Sierra LaMar.
The penalty phase is expected to last two weeks. It took jurors only two days to return a guilty verdict. Legal analyst Steven Clark said it will take a lot longer to decide a sentence given emotional testimony from both sides.
“It really affected me in a way that I felt like I lost a sister I never really had,” said Sierra LaMar’s best friend Channah Foreman. “I was really close to her in that aspect. We supported each other emotionally.”
Foreman carries a key chain of Sierra’s favorite shoe with her at all times. While she doesn't necessarily support the death penalty, she said the pain of not knowing Serra’s whereabouts is indescribable.
“He hasn't spoken for over five years about anything and what happened to her that's literally all we want now,” said Foreman.
Foreman is among two dozen witnesses expected to testify this week as to why Antolin Garcia-Torres should be put to death.
In opening statements of the penalty phase, Clark said prosecutors will focus on the kidnap and murder of Sierra as deliberate and premediated while the defense will bring up Garcia-Torres’s troubled home life.
“The defense is trying to get sympathy for him,” said Clark. “Even though he's been convicted of horrible crimes they are trying to say he's a man who's life worth saving.”
One of the defense's main arguments is Garcia-Torres’s upbringing. His father was convicted back in 2012 for sexually assaulting a young relative. Among those who could testify on behalf of Garcia-Torres include a psychologist and his family notably Garcia-Torres ex-girlfriend and mother to his young child.
“The jury would be allowed to consider the impact of that young child of Garcia-Torres’s execution,” said Clark. “The defense will try to play up all those sympathetic natures of this case.”
Clark said it's a decision the jury will not take lightly since in this case there is still no clear explanation of how the 15-year-old died.
“It may be this jury has a lingering doubt about Sierra LaMar,” said Clark. “Are they going to impose the death penalty on a case where there is no body?”
Clark said it’s possibly but unlikely a deal will be made if Garcia-Torres gives information on Sierra’s body given he is likely to appeal the court's decision.