Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Castro Indictment & Arraignment - The Next Steps in the Ariel Castro Case - Cleveland, Ohio


According to media reports, investigators are still conducting an examination of the evidence in the Ariel Castro case. Castro has already appeared in court for an initial appearance. That hearing was held in the Cleveland Municipal Court. At that time, a bond was set. His next court appearance will likely come at his arraignment. Castro's arraignment hearing will be set once he is indicted by the Cuyahoga County Grand Jury.


The Grand Jury proceeding is closed to the public. A prosecuting attorney from the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office will present evidence to the grand jurors. Ultimately, the grand jury will issue an Indictment. At this time, Castro has only been charged with three (3) counts of Rape and four (4) counts of Kidnapping involving the victims Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight. It is widely anticipated that he will face many additional charges and additional counts once the Indictment is returned. It is important to note, the standard for getting charged or indicted with a criminal offense is probable cause. This is a much lower standard than what is employed at trial. At trial, guilt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Probable cause is a much lower standard.


The Indictment is a formal charging document that outlines the specific crimes alleged along with applicable references to the Ohio Revised Code. The Indictment will generally outline the basic elements of each alleged offense and will also generally provide the date and location of the criminal conduct. I expect that once the Indictment is filed, the media will publish it for widespread viewing. It is important to note, the Indictment will indicate the charges being brought, but it will generally not go into any great detail as to the specific conduct.


Once indicted, the Castro case will be set for arraignment. At this time, the general public will be able to access the on-line docket for Cuyahoga County in order to follow the matter (journal entries, court filings, motions, briefs etc.) as it proceeds through the justice system. The felony arraignments in Cuyahoga County are held on the 12th floor of the Cuyahoga County Justice Center. Since Castro is incarcerated, he may not be present in the courtroom for the arraignment. Instead, he may appear via video from the jail. If this is the case, his attorneys will be present in the courtroom and speak on his behalf. Castro will be able to hear and see the proceedings via video from the jail. Generally, this is how incarcerated defendants are arraigned. However, Castro could exercise his right to be present within the courtroom for the arraignment proceeding. If he does, he will be present in court with his attorneys. He will remain in his jail uniform for the arraignment proceedings.

A Cuyahoga County Judge will conduct the arraignment. Generally, the defense attorney will address the court and indicate the following:

1. The defense is in receipt of the Indictment;

2. The 24 hour statutory period has been satisfied (i.e. the Defendant has had a copy of the Indictment for more than 24 hrs. prior to the arraignment). This requirement can be waived if the Defendant did not have a copy;

3. Waive reading (the defense will generally waive the reading of the Indictment open court);

4. Enter a plea of not guilty to all counts; and

5. Request a reasonable bond or the opportunity to make a bond argument.

Generally, the judge sets a bond, taking into consideration information from the bond commissioner, and assigns a judge to the case. Please see my blog regarding Cuyahoga County Bonds wherein I delineate the different types of bonds that can be set in a criminal case. In Cuyahoga County, the judge is assigned randomly. The judge that conducts the arraignment will not be assigned to preside over the case itself. With regard to the issue of bond, please see 

Some judges in Cuyahoga County provide the arraignment judge with a date upon which they want the first pre-trial in the case set. If one of those judges is assigned the case, Castro and his attorneys will be immediately informed of the date upon which they will need to be back in court. If a judge is assigned who does not provide dates, no date will be given at the time of the arraignment. Instead, the date will be set thereafter and communicates to the attorneys generally by way of a telephone call from the bailiff or some other method of notice.

For more information regarding this process, please see my blog on Cuyahoga County Arraignments. Further, Cleveland Criminal Defense Lawyer, Attorney Ian Friedman is featured in a video wherein he explains aspects of the Indictment, Arraignment and Bond. I have included that video below:


It is fairly common for media to be present within the arraignment room in Cuyahoga County. Generally, film crews are able to setup their cameras in order to record the arraignment proceedings. Even if a Defendant appears via video, the media is generally able to record the video screen upon which the defendant appears.

In Cuyahoga County, generally, only the Defendant's who have been summoned to be arraigned, their attorneys, members of the media and court staff are permitted within the arraignment room. Family members, friends, alleged victims and others are generally not able to be accommodated. Unless there is some sort of issue pertaining to bond, the average arraignment lasts only a few minutes.  

As the Castro case proceeds through the Cuyahoga County justice system, I will continue to provide updates regarding the processes. Please follow me on Twitter @ClevelandLawyer and please feel free to call me with any questions you may have regarding criminal procedure in Cuyahoga County at (216) 928-7700. Please visit Friedman & Frey on the web. Our firm consists of dedicated Cleveland, Ohio criminal defense lawyers that are prepared to answer your questions and secure your rights if you or a loved one is under investigation or has been charged with a crime.