today-news

Castro lawyer: We expected him to be protected in prison

Sep. 4, 2013 at 1:28 PM ET

Video: The attorney of Ariel Castrosaid that the family of the Cleveland kidnapper found out about his suicide through the media, and that the justice system is obligated to protect inmates from themselves.

The attorney for convicted kidnapper and rapist Ariel Castro said authorities twice denied requests for independent psychiatric evaluations of his client, who was found hanged in his prison cell Tuesday night.

Castro was sentenced in August to life in prison plus 1,000 years for holding three women captive in his Cleveland home after pleading guilty to 937 counts ranging from rape to aggravated murder. Castro was discovered in his cell at the Correctional Reception Center in Orient, Ohio, around 9:20 p.m. Tuesday and taken to Ohio State University Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 10:52 p.m., authorities said. 

Castro was not on suicide watch at the prison.

“There's no doubt that he had psychological problems, and it's obvious, throughout the case, that's what this case was about – somebody who was deeply disturbed,’’ Castro’s attorney, Craig Weintraub, told Willie Geist on TODAY Wednesday.

“We'll find out exactly what happened. I understand that the public in general is probably going to say, 'Well, good riddance.' But this is a human being, we are in a civilized society, and we expect that the person will be protected when they’re institutionalized, and so there is an obligation on the part of the prisons. I would doubt that the prison officials would dispute that they have an obligation to ensure that there won't be a suicide or anything else. And we pray that there wasn't anything else.”

Ariel Castro in court.
TODAY
Ariel Castro was found dead in his prison cell a month after his sentencing.

Weintraub claimed that his requests for an independent forensic evaluation during Castro’s final days at the county jail before he was sent to the Lorain Correctional Institution were denied. A request to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction to get him a forensic evaluation while in Lorain was also denied, according to Weintraub.

“I'm going to be very interested to hear what they have to say about how in depth and what the wide scope of the independent evaluation was that they may have conducted,’’ Weintraub said. “If it's anything but a suicide or it is a suicide, we're going to get to the bottom of it. There's no way we're going to let this go especially in light of the fact that it's been 30 days (since Castro was imprisoned).”

“A thorough review of this incident is underway,’’ Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction spokeswoman JoEllen Smith said in a statement to NBC News. “More information can be provided once it becomes available pending the status of this investigation.”

Castro was in a cell by himself in protective custody at Orient, where guards make rounds every half hour, according to the Ohio Bureau of Prisons. He was moved to the prison about two weeks ago, Weintraub said.

“His punishment was to be kept in prison until he died a natural death,’’ attorney and legal commentator Areva Martin told TODAY Wednesday. “And the prison guards, the prison administration will be held accountable for his suicide.”

Weintraub and Castro’s family found out about his death from media reports. Weintraub said the family is “devastated by the news.”

“It's very disturbing and disappointing that we received the news that way,’’ Weintraub said. 

TOP