SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) – Both the prosecution and the defense on Wednesday wrapped their closing arguments in the trial of a man accused of kidnapping and killing a missing Morgan Hill teen.
Antolin Garcia-Torres is charged with capital murder and kidnapping in the case of 15-year-old Sierra LaMar. She disappeared on her way to school in 2012. Her body has never been found.
The prosecution finished its closing arguments Wednesday morning, again highlighting forensic evidence such as LaMar’s clothing fibers in Garcia-Torres’ car, her hair on a rope in his trunk, and his DNA on her pants.
Defense attorney Al Lopez walked a tightrope with the jury as he presented closing arguments, at one point channeling a former late-night comedian in an attempt to cast doubt that Sierra LaMar is even dead.
But according to one legal analyst, his unusual methods defending Garcia-Torres seemed to be making a connection with the jury in a positive way.
“The defense did a good job of relating to the jury in what is a very difficult case, the kidnap and murder of a teenager,” said former prosecutor and legal analyst Steve Clark.
Lopez came up with a David Letterman-style top ten list for why Garcia-Torres is not guilty.
The list included the defendant’s calm demeanor, the lack of tools that might have been used to hide the body, the absence of a murder weapon and witnesses, the lack of a crime scene, the fact that the prosecution could not prove a cause of death.
All those items pointed to the defense assertion that LaMar is still a missing person.
Lopez repeatedly slammed the prosecutor’s case, literally piling small balls into what he called a “bucket of shame.” He placed one in front of the jury for every piece of what he called weak evidence presented by the prosecution as fact.
Several jurors smiled at the tactic.
“It has been very folksy and conversational, but that’s been their strategy and I think you’ll see more, said Clark. “They are leaving it for the jury to say, ‘Wait a minute, all this trace evidence doesn’t add up.'”
The prosecution will get one more chance at rebuttal Thursday morning. The jury will likely get the case to begin deliberations by Thursday afternoon.
Garcia-Torres is also accused of trying to kidnap three other women in 2009. As in the LaMar case, he has plead not guilty to those charges.