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June 26, 2013

By wishing for end to legal proceedings, are Ariel Castro's victims urging a plea deal and no death penalty trial?

The question in the title of this post is my reaction to this new story, headlined "'Sordid details': Ariel Castro's alleged kidnapping victims want case to be over," coming today from the high-profile Cleveland kidnapping case. Here are the basics: 

The three young women allegedly held captive for a decade in a Cleveland home where they were raped and tortured want to get the case to court as quickly as possible, their attorneys said on Wednesday, adding that they want “this whole thing behind them.”

Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight escaped Castro’s home on May 6 after Berry broke through a front door and screamed to neighbors for help. “The longer this process lasts, the more painful it is for them. And the more sordid details of this horror that get disclosed in this process, the more painful it is for them,” attorney Kathy Joseph, who is representing Knight, said in a statement....

“Again, they have faith in the process, but the simple, honest truth is they would like it to be over,” said James Wooley, attorney for Berry and DeJesus. “They want this whole thing behind them. Any date by which this may end is like light at the end of a tunnel.”

Ariel Castro has pleaded not guilty to 329 charges including kidnapping and rape.  On Wednesday, Judge Michael Russo in Cuyahoga County ordered Castro to undergo a competency evaluation regarding his ability to understand the trial proceedings and work with his attorney. Castro spoke twice during the 10-minute pre-trial hearing on Wednesday, both times affirming that he understood the judge.

As everyone who follows capital cases should know well, the most certain way to ensure that the prosecution of Ariel Castro does not get resolved quickly would be for the District Attorney to serious pursue a death sentence and to refuse to engineer a plea deal including a lesser sentence.  I have to believe the victims and their attorneys understand this, and thus I also believe that these new statements on behalf of the victims are, in essence, a request to key prosecutors to get to work on a quick plea deal to bring a form of closure to the legal proceedings ASAP.

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1. Has anyone asked them straight-up: Do you think this man deserves the DP? I would be very interested in their answer.

2. If we say that the more hideous the crime, the less keen we should be to seek the DP, we have created what can at best be called a perverse incentive. Should we drop the case entirely if he had held them for 20 years rather than 10? I mean, all these determinations of sanity by themselves will take no small amount of time (look at the Hasan case from Ft. Hood). The only way to avoid the case's dragging on like that is to drop the charges right now. Should we do that? Why not?

3. It's curious that cases in which the victims don't want (or, as here, seem not to want) the DP ipso facto get a good deal of publicity, but when they DO want it, not nearly as much. How odd.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jun 26, 2013 5:20:28 PM


I can think of plenty of cases where relatives (the actual victims being dead)who very much want executions carried out have received every bit of media attention they could have wished for.

Marc Klaas in California and Dr. Petit in Connecticut come immediately to mind. And of course Nancy Grace is in a class all by herself.

I strongly suspect any pattern of the sort you mention is mostly extra sensitivity to one set of stimuli and discounting of the other on your part.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Jun 27, 2013 12:56:23 AM

The prosecutor here should consider the views of the victims. Understandably they do not want to have to publicly relate the horrors they suffered over the years. The prosecutor should settle for a 30 years and be done with the case.

Posted by: observer | Jun 27, 2013 9:11:17 AM

"the more hideous the crime, the less keen we should be to seek the DP [=] a perverse incentive"

Lawyer Craig Weintraub threatening victims and scaring prosecutors off the death penalty by ludicrously claiming
that his client, Ariel Castro is " very concerned about having the [victims] go through the stress of a trial ".

One might esteem this as likewise perverse.

Or is it rather ::onlooker::'s definition of "defense lawyers actually do what they are supposed to do: vigorously and zealously defend."?

Posted by: Adamakis | Jun 27, 2013 11:54:34 AM

Using your advanced maths, would that 30 years you advocate be:

9 years for the 7 counts of gross sexual imposition, 3 of felonious assault & 1 of possession of criminal tools;
9 years for the 177 counts of kidnapping;
9 years for the 139 counts of 10 years of rape; &
1 year for 5 counts of aggravated murder?

[Just a guess based on your previous posts.]

Or mightn't a concurrent calculation give him time served?

Posted by: Adamakis | Jun 27, 2013 12:15:29 PM

Adamakis, we're talking about a plea agreement. Who cares what the man pleads to. All people should care about is the time. I proposed to spare the victims further humiliation, publicity, shame, embarrassment--at having to retell the tale and having it retold on the internet forever for them, their children, and their grandchildren to read. is that so bad? Are you suggesting the prosecutor should not consider these things? I proposed 30 years. I don't care how the parties get there. Plead to one count and stipulate to the sentence, or plead 100 counts and stipulate to the sentence.

Posted by: Adamakis | Jun 27, 2013 3:53:27 PM

observer --

Suppose defense counsel insists on no more than 20 years? Should the prosecutor agree to that? What about 15? If not, why not?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jun 27, 2013 5:04:51 PM

Bill Otis, obviously the state and the defense attorney have to agree. This discussion presupposes that the state wants to deal to spare the victims--if the state does not want to deal and doesn't care about the victims, so be it. As to the number, clearly both sides have to agree; otherwise it's a trial.

Posted by: observer | Jun 28, 2013 3:13:55 PM

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