Penalty Phase Kicks Off in Sierra LaMar Trial

One week since finding Antolin Garcia Torres guilty of killing 15-year-old Sierra LaMar, jurors returned to a South Bay courtroom Tuesday to contemplate the convicted killer's fate.

Life in prison or the death penalty is on the line, and both sides of the courtroom kicked off proceedings with an emphasis on playing at the jurors' emotions.

During a 21-minute opening statement, prosecutors pushed home the point that Garcia Torres deserves death for not showing any mercy for the teenager, who has yet to be found since disappearing on her way to a Morgan Hill bus stop back in 2012.

On the other hand, Garcia Torres' legal team stated that they were disappointed with the guilty verdict, but they do accept it and will do what they can to secure life without parole for their client. They stated that Garcia-Torres' life has value regardless of the verdict and should not be ended prematurely.

The defense also attempted to evoke sympathy for their client by addressing his tumultuous family history that includes instances of domestic violence and sexual abuse. For example, they stated that their client witnessed his alcoholic father abuse his mother while growing up.

Following opening statements, three of LaMar's friends wiped back tears as they took to the stand to deliver their recollections of the teenager. One girl described LaMar as "a bubbly ray of sunshine" while another read a letter stating that she, like the LaMar family, will never have closure.

The penalty phase began just after 8:30 a.m. A total of four documents were submitted to the court before Tuesday's session. One asked for a separate psychological evaluation of Garcia Torres to be conducted by the district attorney's office. A second document rebuked that request, stating that it violated the convicted killer's rights to stay silent during the trial. 

Another motion filed by the district attorney's office opposed a doctor's testimony regarding the impact that pesticides had on Garcia Torres during his childhood. The final motion made jurors aware that if they decide on a death sentence, that decision must be unanimous.

The penalty phase of the trial could last several days, if not weeks.

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