Could Ariel Castro be tried for murder? Case would be unprecedented.
Aggravated murder charges likely will be sought against Ariel Castro, a prosecutor said. Experts say it is unprecedented to sentence someone to death for killing a fetus in a case in which the mother survives.
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Then came the announcement Thursday by Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty that his office will likely press additional charges of aggravated murder related to allegations that Mr. Castro beat Michele Knight so severely that she miscarried at least five times.
In Ohio, the charges of aggravated murder would make Castro eligible for the death penalty, which is reserved for the “most depraved criminals who commit aggravated murder during the course of a kidnapping,” Mr. McGinty told reporters Thursday.
But legal experts say it is unprecedented to send someone to Death Row for killing an unborn child in a case in which the mother survives. For example, Scott Peterson was sentenced to death in 2005 after being found guilty of both the second-degree murder of his unborn son and the first-degree murder of Laci Peterson, his wife.
“Nobody has ever been prosecuted [in] a full-fledged death penalty case based on pregnancy termination all the way through,” says Douglas Berman, a professor of law at Ohio State University in Columbus who is an expert on sentencing law and policy. “It’s a very hard case to prove and establish.”
The challenge in the Ohio case, experts say, is proving Castro intended to kill the fetuses, or even knew Ms. Knight was pregnant at the time he allegedly beat her.