Explainer: A Murder Charge in the Cleveland Kidnapping Case?

Friday, May 10, 2013

Prosecutors say they may charge Ariel Castro with aggravated murder (and seek the death penalty) for forcing a miscarriage in one of the women he'd held captive for 10 years in his suburban Cleveland home. Deborah Denno, professor of law at Fordham University and expert on rape and assault law, explains how the case may be built, and how laws differ throughout the country.

Comments [53]

clive betters

kidnap victims be damned,it's all about the anti-abortion kooks making a fetish of the unborn/never born. many of these are the same fools, that would see no correlation between an under funded police force,social services cut backs,and the tragedy of what took place in cleveland.

May. 11 2013 10:41 AM

@ David from Fredericksburg, VA

We fundamentally see this issue in very different terms. I trying to approach this issue in legal terms and you appear to be commenting from an anti-abortion stance. The deed has already been done and the pregnancies terminated by this man's abuse. How you or I define the pregnancies at this point is moot. The question ask was how do we charge him for this particular act.

My response to that question is ovum and sperm can not exist outside a human being and the courts view both as property belonging solely to the individual to be legally dispose of as one chooses.

I am saying that for this case, the courts should think about also viewing nonviable fetus, in the same way. Since this man abused this woman with the express purpose of terminating her pregnancies he is guilty of taking her property since it is ultimately her decision on what should happen to any fetus she may carry.

You appear to disagree and I assume you want him charge with 5 counts of murder (or however many time he caused her to miscarry). But the problem with that is it becomes a slippery slope and where do we stop--sex only for procreation?

May. 11 2013 09:34 AM

Wow. I'm listening at 2:30 AM Saturday morning. Is this the Brian Lehrer Show or Headline News Lite? Is Nancy Grace up next to get the rage back on track? What is all of this about? Vengeance? Death Penalty? Legal jockeying? Oh wait. Is the fundraiser gearing up?

This was a horrid crime. Legal wrinkle or not. It is an issue of forced sex and control - a power differential laced with evilness - and it is everywhere in our society, just not so extreme with gut wrenching consequences. Maybe Public radio can enlighten us on how force, control, and subjugation is still prevalent in our "exceptionalist" America - next time from the victim's standpoint, and not some legal scholar that helps public radio listeners practice their analytical thinking or attack each other on the web.

We should be focusing on the victims, running in some way of our own to their rescue, not raging against the perpetrator. Vengeance is clearly the motive of this guy. Why else do you exact such sadism on strangers? Behaving like him - exacting a price for a wrongdoing - is just that: acting like him. No to the Death Penalty. No to assault weapons. No to male privilege. And NO to Ivy League Headline News Coverage. Leave that to Ted and Ruppert. They don't need help. What's next? Jody Arias? Don't you guys run some silly passionate plea about how you need our donations to help us "make sense of it all"?

Believe me, this spot did not help us "make sense of it all".

May. 11 2013 02:56 AM
left from nyc

When you consider how humanely these 'types' are put to death, it's very caring and sensitive.
Just think of the brutality, sinister evil these 'types' wrought on their victims!
Death Penalty is compassionate in contrast. I will never understand how anyone can defend these 'types.'

May. 10 2013 03:41 PM

If convicted of the pending charges, Ariel Castro, deserves Life in Prison,
with no parole possible, not ever.

May. 10 2013 12:26 PM
John A

What a trolling segment actually.
Murders and pro-lifers and capital punishment - Oh my!
Still, you gotta pay the transmitter bill...
Thanks very much for the download.
Legally, the prosecution may be forced to refer to the offence as "fetal manslaughter".
Morally, many may be still be bothered to have to think 'it's a child when the mother wants it, and a procedure when she doesn't'. Not precisely true - a mother can't legally force abortion without medical induction, for example. But those that may be bothered by the moral inconsistencies - be so - as I have been for 40 years.
Capital punishment? Yeah, bad.

May. 10 2013 12:09 PM

David from Fredericksburg, VA ~

Thanks for the clarification. I left out the paranoid component. I stand corrected.

May. 10 2013 12:00 PM

People who say that the death penalty is "cruel" don't know what they are talking about. Centuries ago people used to be tortured to death. There were coffins which had sharp, long metal spikes on the inner lid so that when a live person was put inside, the spikes would stab the person at different parts of the body including through the eyes. People got boiled in oil. There were crucifixions etc. You can't convince me that a needle that puts you to sleep is cruel. Unusual? Explain that. Again, death as a punishment has always been practiced. It is more humane now. And there is this convoluted argument that imprisonment is cheaper. But if we were to always stuff people in prison it would eventually mean that we have to build more prisons (which must have comfortable conditions)or it would eventually mean that we have to release some prisoners.
Some people say that the government can't take vengeance by killing people. It is not about vengeance even if some people see it that way. It is about practicality. We don't euthanize rabid dogs for vengeance but to rid society of a "strain." The same applies to humans. There are a myriad of problems to deal with and there is no use trying to "save" each individual who has such psychological or personal, or behavioral problems that s/he would kidnap people and torture them as well as do something really bizarre such as "create a life" in the process of sexually assaulting someone, so as to then make that person abort by physically mistreating that person.Which really brings me to a point that I really would like to make. This issue, because of the intent of certain prosecutors; is going to go into the area of whether Mr. Ariel Castro could be charged with murder because he subsequently killed fetuses in the women whom he himself had impregnated.Why isn't there a law that makes it a crime to impregnate someone in the course of raping them whether or not the fetus goes on to be born or not? It should be a crime to "create an unwanted life." I know that a lot of people will say that it will affect situations in which people had consensual sex; but isn't it worse that the tradeoff is that there is no law that addresses such a situation as one in which a person was made into a sexual slave and forced to become a biological parent against her ( perhaps his) will and thus bringing a life into the world only to be destroyed ? In other words rapists, whenever they impregnate someone, should be charged with creating the situation in which a fetus will have to be aborted. After all, there was once a case in which a thief broke into a home and caused someone in the home to jump out the window in fear, resulting in that person's own death. So the thief was charged not only with breaking and entering but with inadvertently causing a situation in which someone took action that caused his own death.

May. 10 2013 11:21 AM
David from Fredericksburg, VA

@ Amy from Manhattan

I agree. I suspect people are expressing their gut reactions and would not endorse treating people like animals once they think it out.

May. 10 2013 11:10 AM
David from Fredericksburg, VA

@ Mark Zimmermann from Brooklyn

Unfortunately, a couple of other people here ARE speaking of unborn children as the property of the mother.

I agree that the slavery of these three women (two of them were girls at the time of their abduction) is ONE of the major crimes against them.

I also think that the devaluation of the intrinsic dignity of human beings in our society has caused an increase in horrific assaults against humanity.

May. 10 2013 11:08 AM
Mark Zimmermann from Brooklyn

I wasn't referring to the property rights of the mother. Two people were kept in a state of servitude in complete disregard of their rights as people for 10 years! This is a text book description of slavery. What this whole discussion is about is finding a way to prosecute Castro w/charges that are commensurate w/his crimes. I am not a death penalty advocate. It's obvious that the prosecutor is piling on as many applicable charges as he can find & justify. Instead of opening a debate regarding legal charges that could very easily redound negatively on abortion rights, why are we not arguing defensible charges that OBVIOUSLY apply to this case? I'm not a legal scholar. Does anyone know why the prosecutor hasn't chosen this options.

May. 10 2013 11:02 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Punishment by other inmates can't exist without a context of inmates abusing other inmates who are not convicted or who have been wrongly convicted. It may make some of you feel good to think about it (which is squicky in itself), but it would depend on everything that's wrong w/the prison system.

May. 10 2013 11:00 AM
David from Fredericksburg, VA

@ Laney

It doesn't bother you, even a little bit, to speak of humans as property?

An infant slave can't do any work, so it's okay to own them (and thus okay to sell them)?

May. 10 2013 10:54 AM
Jf from Reality

Thc treats schitzophrenis. Stop lying prople. It.s good for you, it prevents cancer, treats 400 diseases. Look it up pleasr. Exercise is addictive too.

May. 10 2013 10:53 AM
David from Fredericksburg, VA

@ dboy

Your inability to understand a person's right does not me psychotic. Your inability to understand the value of human life makes me wonder about your mental state.

I've never stated that I desire to kill or harm another human being. I'm sorry you can't understand that most of the country does not have wall to wall cops, like in NYC. You also seem unable to understand that the police have NO obligation to protect us, they usually show up after the crime is committed - before hand, you're on your own.

May. 10 2013 10:52 AM

One caller suggested these guys be placed in general population, where they'd be raped and ultimately murdered. This appears to be poetic justice indeed.

My family remaining in Europe was deported to the death camps and went up the chimney. I'd like to think that these United States are better than that, but with Gitmo, the endless (and inept) "war on terror," and the GOP's demonization of non-whites, women's rights, and LGBT people, I begin to wonder.

May. 10 2013 10:49 AM
kikakiki from harlem/wall street

No! death penalty to easy an out, No locked away from other inmates either, no inmate may kill him, but whatever else they do to him "see no evil". That he caused miscarriages is upsetting but the damage to the psyche of these women in unimaginable, the body will heal but the mind is damaged beyond repair, even as they begin to heal, dark moments will reappear for the rest of their lives. Bring on the inmates. And lets revisit prison rights, the hel- with death penalty, no TV, movies, gym, etc respect religion, pull the teeth but not make dentures treat the body. Cot and a hot.

May. 10 2013 10:41 AM

This case is NOT about unborn fetuses!!

This case is about the pathological, heinous kidnapping and brutal torture of three LIVING sentient human beings!!

May. 10 2013 10:38 AM

@ David from Fredericksburg

Until a fetus reaches a point where it can exist outside the womb of its mother--that fetus is property of that woman and solely of that woman. i am not sure slaves is an apt comparison. A woman can't use the fetus' labor to enrich herself without compensation to the fetus or otherwise.

May. 10 2013 10:35 AM
Mark Zimmermann from Brooklyn

It occurred to me that the most obvious crime this man committed was that he enslaved these women. Why isn't he charged for slavery along w/the other charges. Are slavery laws based on property rights or human rights?

May. 10 2013 10:33 AM

David from Fredericksburg, VA ~

You're the gun psychotic - you do it.

May. 10 2013 10:33 AM
David from Fredericksburg, VA

The common thread I'm hearing from the left here is that the value of the unborn child depends on how much it is loved/desired by the mother.

So, when an unloved, unwanted homeless person is murdered - meh? This is the logical end point of the thinking I'm seeing here.

May. 10 2013 10:33 AM
Justine B. B. L. from NYC

One of the callers made a good point that may have been missed. What this man did was unconscionable. Keeping these once-children and now women as slaves-- and sex slaves in particular-- is beyond my comprehension.

Yet the charge that is taken most seriously-- that carries the greatest punishment-- is that he forced repeated abortions. He did this to a living, breathing woman. This is my concern.

*If* the death penalty or a very serious penalty is considered, then it should be for slavery of living, breathing woman.

May. 10 2013 10:32 AM
David from Fredericksburg, VA

Hey dboy

Abortion - Since you think it perfectly ok - YOU do it!

May. 10 2013 10:31 AM

Hey, francyne!!


May. 10 2013 10:27 AM

Forcing a woman to miscarry or abort AGAINST her will is murder even when the pregancy is a result of rape? I'm not so sure here.

Absent a confession, this is a tough case to prove.

May. 10 2013 10:26 AM
David from Fredericksburg, VA

@ Laney from Princeton

Did you actually mean to talk about the unborn EXACTLY the way slaves were?

May. 10 2013 10:26 AM

Where were the neighbors...police!?!?!

Why did it take so LONG???

The most horrifying thing is the failure of the community to identify this heinous crime earlier. 10 years and NOTHING suspicious?!?!?!?

May. 10 2013 10:25 AM
Amy from Manhattan

As an opponent of the death penalty, I wouldn't "rest assured" that anyone would be executed.

May. 10 2013 10:24 AM

Can someone explain how the brothers were not aware of this? I heard this morning they're not facing any prosecution.

May. 10 2013 10:24 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

I don't understand Liberal hypocrisy. The rail against "overpopulation" and applaud rampant abortion, and yet abhor the death penalty. I do believe that application of the death penalty requires overwhelming and indisputable evidence, but no reason why it should't exist. Why should we feed and house such miscreants for decades?

May. 10 2013 10:24 AM
Lena from Brooklyn

I'm appalled by this entire case. And now I'm troubled that the kidnapping and repeated rape of these girls isn't considered bad enough to merit capital punishment, yet the abortions are. Of course forced miscarriage is horrific. But the real victims here are the women, not the fetuses. Whatever your views on capital punishment and abortion, do we really think the death of the fetuses is the most punishable thing he did?

May. 10 2013 10:24 AM
Bob from Brooklyn

francyne - you so crazy! You should run for the Iraqi Parliament.

May. 10 2013 10:23 AM
francyne pelchar from Pelham Bay Park

vengeance is justice. I'm 100% for the death penalty.

May. 10 2013 10:21 AM
Bob from Brooklyn

@ Laney - the Body Snatcher Law?

May. 10 2013 10:20 AM
Laney from Princeton

If someone causes a woman to miscarriage during a commission of a crime or actively causes a woman to terminate her pregnancy, without her consent, the crime should be covered by property law. The fetus is the property of the woman and once stolen -- the perp should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law for theft.

May. 10 2013 10:18 AM

maybe the inmates will help us out?

May. 10 2013 10:17 AM

Hey, "left" -

You strap the prisoner down. Insert the needle into his arm. Listen to his final words as you release the lethal chemistry into his bloodstream. Watch as his eyelids twitch and his eyes roll back into his head.

You do it.

May. 10 2013 10:17 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Times may change, but our species doesn't. "Liberalism" is based on the idea that the nature of our species can basically be changed, but it can't. We are apes, and the only thing that inhibits us are the "taboos" we artificially set up. We call those taboos "religion." Once you unravel those taboos too much, then everything goes.

May. 10 2013 10:16 AM
Carolita from NYC

When someone beats or starves a woman till she miscarries, his crimes are against the woman. There should be a very severe punishment (maybe life in prison) for forcing a woman to miscarry against her will. But not a murder charge on behalf of the fetus. No one decides for a woman, one way or another.

May. 10 2013 10:13 AM
David from Fredericksburg, VA

@ dboy

And yet babies are put to death every day - with your full support.

May. 10 2013 10:12 AM
Nancy from Manhattan

I oppose the death penalty because I don't want the government having the power to kill us. Not to mention the many cases of exonerations of those on death row who were wrongfully convicted.

Better, if indeed this man is found guilty, to have him locked up in a cage, contemplating his crimes, for the rest of his life.

May. 10 2013 10:12 AM
Miscellaneous from Brooklyn

Believe it or not, the death penalty would be an easy out for this creep. Only if he gets life in prison without parole will he begin to understand what his captives experienced. Feticide or not, I think I oppose the death penalty in this case.

"Unborn member of the species Homo Sapiens?" Mr. Castro is a "born" member of the species Homo Sapiens and look what he did! The pro-lifers should consider that when they think about recommending the death penalty.

May. 10 2013 10:11 AM

Vengeance is not justice.

May. 10 2013 10:11 AM
The Truth from Becky

Life in prison is sufficient...death penalty is extreme.

May. 10 2013 10:11 AM
fuva from harlemworld

Maybe killing a fetus against the mother's will is murder.
Yes, Ariel Castro is the lowest. But, still, the state probably should not be killing people.

May. 10 2013 10:11 AM
JR from NYC

I'm pro-choice and I'm pro-capital punishment. There's no redemption to what this criminal did to those (then) children.
Impregnated the girls several times, then starved her and punched her until she aborted.
Death to the monster.

May. 10 2013 10:10 AM
David from Fredericksburg, VA

The dirtbag killed humans - no matter how many obscuring terms you want to throw out there.

He should go to a super max facility - one hour a day out of his cage for solitary exercise.

May. 10 2013 10:10 AM

The death penalty has NO place in a evolved, civilized society.


May. 10 2013 10:09 AM
Bob from Brooklyn

If you want to reduce the net suffering in the world, then being against the death penalty is a must. Even though he did horrible things, putting him on death row will only increase suffering in the world - his own suffering, his family's suffering and those who are required to carry out the punishment will also suffer consequences. Not to mention the fact that innocent people are put to death all the time.

May. 10 2013 10:08 AM
Brock from Manhattan

How Pro-Choice advocates respond could be very telling. They have little choice but to defend and argue against the murder charge.

If Ohio brings Aggravated Murder Charges and Ariel Castro is convicted on the Murder Charges the Ohio Law could go right to the Supreme Court. If this happens it will be very interesting to see how the supporters of "Choice" responds, very interesting indeed.

May. 10 2013 10:06 AM
left from nyc

I never understood why people oppose the death penalty. It makes perfect sense that these 'types' be removed from our system entirely. And I consider myself a very Left leaning person.

May. 10 2013 10:01 AM
Bob from Brooklyn

The death penalty should be outlawed. It's cruel punishment and has no place in an allegedly enlightened country.

May. 10 2013 09:56 AM

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