It’s been chess match of sorts inside a San Jose courtroom during the early stages of the Sierra LaMar murder trial, and on Wednesday and Thursday, the defense made a couple of crucial and somewhat successful moves.
The trial of Sierra's accused killer, Antolin Garcia Torres, wrapped up its fourth day, with the defense spending a good amount of time tearing down key parts of the prosecution’s case, including getting a key admission from an investigator that at least one part of his police report was "inaccurate."
Sierra disappeared in March 2012 on her way to a school bus stop near her home in Morgan Hill. Prosecutors say Garcia Torres kidnapped her and killed her, but 15-year-old's body has never been found.
In addition to the investigator's admission, the defense continued to attack the way the evidence was processed. The attorneys for Garcia Torres are trying to show that the sheriff’s sergeant who collected the evidence made mistakes such as co-contaminating evidence.
They also questioned why he processed that evidence at the command post in Morgan Hill rather than at the sheriff's office, where it might be more sterile. The investigator testified that his commanders told him to process the evidence at a command post for staffing reasons. They needed boots on the ground near the area where Sierra disappeared.
The investigator also testified that they used an improvised table to lay out the evidence. The defense believes that contaminated the evidence.
"The defense definitely brought it’s A-game when it came to cross examining the main crime scene investigator in the case," legal analyst Steven Clark said. "What they’re trying to do is say that the collection of the evidence at the onset was flawed."
But Clark added that while the defense may have had a good day, it will be hard for Garcia Torres to dispute all the evidence against him.
"The prosecution is trying to re-establish the collection process to say the defense is making a tempest in a teapot and that this is nothing more than really throwing smoke," Clark said.
On Thursday, the prosecution changed gears and brought in Sierra’s high school friends. At times, it became emotional as the young women recalled the last time they saw Sierra and what their thoughts were on the day she disappeared.
The trial resumes Monday. Garcia Torres faces the death penalty if convicted.