Ariel Castro has pleaded not guilty to the kidnapping and rape and aggravated murder charges stemming from allegedly holding three women and a child captive in his home for a decade. The case of Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight has riveted the country -- it's hard to believe that these three women, all of whom disappeared off the streets of Cleveland, were allegedly being held captive in a house of horrors only blocks from where they all vanished. And now it's like, WHAT?! There seems to be such overwhelming evidence against Castro -- not only the word of the three women, but the chains and other instruments of torture inside his scary boarded-up house -- that you wonder how in the hell he could plead NOT guilty.
Pleading not guilty doesn't mean you're innocent, or even that you think you're innocent, or even that your lawyer thinks you're innocent. Castro will plead not guilty and then there will be furious bargaining behind the scenes to see if a plea deal can be worked out. My guess is that Castro's lawyers will focus solely on trying to get the death penalty -- which is still being bandied about as a possibility -- off the table. If it's off the table, then he might plead guilty and get life in prison without parole.
However, there certainly have been cases where suspects in long-term kidnapping cases tried to claim that the victim was there of her own free will. Castro might go that route. It would be a long shot since he's got three women against him, not the usual one. But if he pleads guilty, he would most likely get the same amount of time in prison that he would if he were found guilty at trial, so why not go with a long drawn-out trial that will take months and months? Possibly years? Castro has nothing but time and he's likely not paying for his lawyer.
My guess is that everyone will want a plea deal so the women don't have to testify. But it all depends on Castro and how stubborn he is. Let's not forget, we actually haven't heard a word from Castro yet. Our legal system does say innocent until proven guilty. As difficult as that is sometimes.
The fact that prosecutors are even considering asking for the death penalty shows you how depraved these acts were since the death penalty is typically reserved for first degree murder cases. I imagine that the women will have something to say about what they'd like to see happen to Castro. They may want to see him fry. Or they may want to heal by trying to forgive.
A trial would certainly be a circus. Probably one of the sickest trials in history. Will be interesting to see if cameras are allowed.
Would you watch a trial?
Image via Cuyahoga County Jail