TODAY   |  June 12, 2013

Ariel Castro pleads not guilty in Ohio

The man accused of kidnapping three women and holding them hostage for over a decade headed back to court today, where he pled not guilty to 329 counts, including rape, kidnapping, and murder. NBC’s Jeff Rossen reports and legal analyst Lisa Bloom comments on the case.

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>>> new details in the cleveland kidnapping case where three young women were held for ten years. the suspect ariel castro is appearing in court today. jeff rosen is at the courthouse. good morning to you.

>>> good morning. this is his arraignment. he is zu and expected within the next two hours. at 9:00 eastern. we're told it will be a five minute arraignment but he's going to get an earful from prosecutors. they're charging him with 329 counts but will they seek the death penalty ?

>> reporter: fbi investigators back at ariel castro 's house this week gathering evidence. inside prosecutors say castro tortured these three women for a decade. in the indictment they call castro a sexually violent predator charging him with 177 counts of kidnapping. 139 counts of rape. and one act of aggravated murder for impregnating michelle knight and causing her to miscarry. cleveland's legal expert says murder may be a tough sell.

>> how do you prove there was a murder with no physical evidence and how do you prove that castro caused the death of the fetus.

>> you know this prosecutor well. do you think he'll go for if death penalty .

>> he stated on the death penalty that he is reserving it for the most vile cases in our system and i think he'll go for it in this one.

>> reporter: in an interview last month castro 's lawyer said he's misunderstood.

>> the initial portrayal by the media has been one of a, quote, monster, and that's not the impression that i got.

>> reporter: but what about the victims? since their dramatic homecomings, all three women are said to be happy and healing. [ cheers ]

>> gina dejesus wants to get her driver's license and go back to school.

>> some of the survivors are currently looking at apartments. so they are moving on with their life which is what everybody wants for them.

>> reporter: through a spokesperson the victims say they don't want to say anything publicly until the trial is over but once again savannah to recap the breaking news this morning, ariel castro due here for his arraignment within the next two hours. his lawyers said all along he plans to plead not guilty to all charges.

>>> thank you. lisa bloom is today's legal analyst. good morning to you.

>> good morning.

>> let's start with the charges. the prosecutor charged he would charge for every day of captivity. we see more than 300 charges but they stop at 2007 . do you expect more charges? is that more symbolic than anything or is there strategy there?

>> sometimes there is a strategy and i would expect thousands of charges. we have three women over the course of ten years, beaten, raped, confined, kidnapped for all of that time. perhaps the prosecutor is holding some back pending the investigation.

>>> let's turn to the legal issue touched on in jeff's piece. that is the murder charges having to do with the terminated pregnancy of michelle knight t. lawyer talked about the lack of physical evidence how that makes a tougher case but does it make an impossible case. could the testimony of the three young women we're looking at could that be enough for a conviction here?

>> absolutely. the testimony of each of these women is credible evidence in a court of law and only one count of aggravated murder . i suspect that's because that's the one that was witnessed by the other two and that's the strongest one from the prosecution. the testimony of these three women versus the testimony of ariel castro can convict him.

>> this is potentially a death penalty case although we don't have the decision yet from the prosecutors. is there any doubt in your mind that's the road he'll pursue.

>> there's a committee in the prosecutors office that has to review it according to their criteria and it would be able to seek the death penalty for fetal homicide where the mother survived but it's hard to think of more depraved and cruel acts than this one. i would expect it.

>> what is the defense strategy ? is it to try to get a plea deal and is that likely to you?

>> the only thing i can defense can do is avoid the death penalty . i'm sure they'll go after the police investigation and the credibility of these three women but they were found in a home confined and chained up where they had been abducted and kept for ten years. i don't see that the defense has a lot to work with.