Ariel Castro, 53 an Ohio man has been accused of murder, rape and of holding three women in a Cleveland house against their will pleaded not guilty on Wednesday. His attorney said it was an effort to delay the death penalty.
Wearing an orange jumpsuit on Wednesday Castro kept his head down and stayed quiet as his attorney entered the plea on his behalf. Castro was indicted last week on 329 counts. Defense attorney Craig Weintraub spoke to reporters after the arraignment and mentioned that some of the charges in the indictment cannot be disputed, but since the plea is targeting the murder accusations and the death penalty one can assume it will be an effort to come up with a resolution in order to avoid going into trial.
Police have mentioned that one of the young women was impregnated five times by Castro, while another bore a child fathered by him. According to Weintraub the plea requires the prosecutor to continue to evaluate their case and determine whether medical and forensic evidence can support the murder conviction for the death of a fetus and if the death penalty is warranted.
Prosecutors have released a statement saying that a capital review committee will consider whether the case is applicable for seeking the death penalty once the indictment process is complete. Weintraub stated “We are very sensitive to the emotional strain and impact that a trial would have on the women, their families, and the community. Mr Castro currently faces hundreds of years in prison with the current charges, and it is our hope that we can continue to work toward a resolution to avoid having an unnecessary trial about aggravated murder and the death penalty”
The current charges cover only half of the 10 years the three women allegedly were held captive from August 2002 when the first of the three disappeared off a Cleveland street to February 2007. Prosecutors in addition have mention the two murder counts, 139 counts of rape, 177 counts of kidnaping, seven counts of gross sexual imposition, three counts of felonious assault and one count of possession of criminal tools.
Castro’s case has brought national attention. The women were freed last month after one of the three shouted for help while Castro was away. The women include Michelle Knight, abducted at age 21 in August 2002; Amanda Berry, kidnaped at age 16 in April 2003 who has a 6 year old daughter allegedly fathered by Castro; and Georgina DeJesus who was 14 when she disappeared in 2004.