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Former Marine tells lawyers not to fight death penalty

Apr. 21, 2014 - 06:06PM   |  
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ALEXANDRIA, VA. — A former Marine facing possible execution for the 2009 murder of a fellow service member ordered his lawyers Monday not to make any arguments to spare his life.

In the absence of any opposition, prosecutors pressed ahead with their case that Jorge Torrez, 25, deserves the death penalty. As the trial moved into the sentencing phase, jurors heard allegations for the first time that Torrez is a multiple murderer who has been charged with killing two young girls in his hometown of Zion, Ill., when he was just 16 years old.

Prosecutor Jonathan Fahey told jurors that DNA evidence links Torrez to the 2005 slayings of 8-year-old Laura Hobbs and 9-year-old Krystal Tobias, and that Fahey admitted killing the girls in a recorded conversation made by a jailhouse informant.

“He talked in detail about how he stabbed them. He laughed about it,” Fahey said.

A jury in U.S. District Court convicted Torrez, 25, earlier this month of the murder of Navy sailor Amanda Snell at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall in July 2009. Her murder had gone unsolved for more than year, and investigators were not even sure at first that Snell had even been a victim of foul play — the medical examiner failed to classify her death as a homicide.

But in 2010, Torrez was arrested for a series of violent, stalking attacks against three women in northern Virginia, including one who was raped, choked and left for dead. His arrest led to the charges in Snell’s death and the DNA hit that linked him to the killings in Illinois.

Torrez — who lived in the same barracks as Snell — is already serving life in prison for the Virginia attacks.

As the sentencing phase of the trial began Monday, the judge told jurors that Torrez ordered his attorneys not to contest the government’s case.

Torrez’s lawyer, Robert Jenkins, declined comment on whether his client has expressed a preference for execution. But he said it is not uncommon for defendants in capital cases to prefer execution over life in prison.

“If Mr. Torrez’s goal is to receive a death sentence, the government is helping him achieve that goal,” Jenkins said.

If he were permitted to do so, Jenkins said he would argue that life in prison is the worst possible punishment the jury could impose on Torrez. Jenkins said it is difficult as a defense lawyer to stand aside and do nothing to defend your client, but that he has no choice.

Torrez did contest the guilt phase of his trial, questioning the government’s evidence in the case. But the jury convicted him after deliberating for a little over a day.

Even though the defense is not contesting the case, prosecutors must give their arguments and present evidence to the jury that Torrez deserves execution.

The jury heard testimony Monday that Snell, who grew up in Las Vegas, loved children and had hoped eventually to work as a special-needs teacher. They saw video of Snell, who was only 20 when she was killed, graduating from high school and from the Navy’s “A’’ School training.

Prosecutors are expected to present evidence related to the Zion slayings on Tuesday. In that case, Fahey said that Hobbs’ father, who found the girls’ bodies, was initially a suspect and actually gave a false confession to the killings after 20 hours of interrogation, compounding the tragedy.

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