Ariel Castro pleaded not guilty to charges that he kidnapped and raped three women, holding them captive in his home for 10 years. ideastream's Nick Castele reports Castro's attorneys hope to avoid a death penalty trial, and indicated that they may be open to a plea deal.
Castro appeared in court for only a few minutes, wearing orange jail clothing and hanging his head. Attorney Jaye Schlachet entered a not guilty plea on his behalf.
Prosecutors allege Castro kidnapped Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight at different times and held them in his home for about decade.
A grand jury last week returned a 329-count indictment against Castro, including two counts of aggravated murder for allegedly causing one of the women to miscarry a pregnancy. Castro was also indicted on 139 counts of rape, 177 counts of kidnapping, seven counts of gross sexual imposition, three counts of felonious assault and one count of possession of criminal tools.
Speaking with reporters after the arraignment, Castro's attorney Craig Weintraub acknowledged that he wouldn't be able to dispute some of the charges against his client.
"A not guilty plea at this stage requires the prosecutor to continue to evaluate the case and determine whether medical and forensic evidence can actually support an aggravated murder conviction for the death of a fetus and whether the death penalty is warranted," he said.
Weintraub said he'd like to avoid an "unnecessary trial" over whether Castro should be convicted of murder and executed.
“We are very sensitive to the emotional strain and impact that a trial would have on the women, their families and this community," he said. “Mr. Castro faces hundreds of years in prison with the current charges, and it is our hope that we can continue to work toward a solution to avoid having an unnecessary trial about aggravated murder and the death penalty."
Jim Wooley, an attorney speaking for the three women, said in a written statement that the legal process "needs to run its course."
"That said, days like today are not easy," he said. "We are hopeful for a just and prompt resolution. We have great faith in the prosecutor’s office and the court."