San Jose

Sierra LaMar is Just Missing, Not Dead, Defense Attorney Says

During closing argument, defense team pulls out 'shame bucket' and drops ball into it to illustrate prosecution's case

Sierra LaMar is just missing, not dead, defense attorneys told jurors Wednesday during their closing argument in the capital murder trial of the man accused of killing the Morgan Hill teenager five years ago.

The defense team for Antolin Garcia Torres, 26, said the evidence collected was compromised and then tried to make a point that if Sierra is dead, someone other than the defendant killed her.

In the San Jose courtroom, defense attorney Al Lopez hauled out what he called a "shame bucket," dropping a ball into it. He was trying to make a point that the prosecution had delivered unreliable evidence.

"The defense's use of the shame bucket is going after the character of the prosecutor and could backfire if he goes too far with it," legal analyst Steven Clark said.

Lopez went on to list his top 10 reasons that Garcia Torres is innocent, number one being Sierra's body has never been found. He also questioned why a strand of Sierra's hair found on a rope in Garcia Torres' car was not shown in an initial photograph but turned up later.

"It could come down to DNA," Clark said. "Can the defense raise doubts about the prosecution's handling of the DNA and show she was not in the defendant's car is an important point."

The defense team even went as far as to suggest to jurors that the driver of a brown car seen in the area where Sierra disappeared in March 2012 could be the real killer.

More than a dozen volunteers who spent years searching for the missing 15-year-old attended the trial. Some said they choose to ignore the defense team's theories and instead focus on Sierra.

"It's sad she's not here, and she should be," said Renee Figueira of San Jose.

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