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Castro defense: 'I am defending her honor'

• Woman's fate in hands of jury.

Posted: April 17, 2008 3:13 a.m.
Updated: June 18, 2008 5:02 a.m.
SAN FERNANDO - The fate of Esperanza Castro was sent to the jury on Wednesday afternoon, as attorneys on both sides presented closing arguments and rested their respective cases.

Defense attorney Peter Korn told the jury that the prosecution rushed to judgment in charging his client with murder.

He also said that the evidence presented against Esperanza Castro was very thin.

"I am fighting for her innocence," Korn said. "I am defending her honor."

He spent the morning session attacking the prosecutor's case against his client, stating that Deputy District Attorney Paula Gonzales did not present enough evidence to the jury to meet her burden of proof.

It is the prosecutor's duty to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused individual committed the crime. In this case, Gonzales was required to establish to the jury that the evidence she presented to the jury was sufficient to convict Esperanza Castro of murdering her husband, Ramon Castro.

Esperanza Castro, 45, is on trial for allegedly killing her husband, Ramon Castro, in the bedroom of their Canyon Country home on March 22,
2006. The next day, his near-naked body was found bloodied and in the back of his abandoned pickup truck under a Highway 14 overpass on Sierra Highway. She was also charged with conspiracy to commit murder.

"I do not pretend to have a lock on the truth," Korn added. "But neither does the prosecution. No matter what you do, you will never know the truth. This case will never be solved no matter what you do.

"The prosecution's case is: If she didn't do it, then who did? That very statement means they did not prove their case."

Not only did Korn argue that the prosecution failed to meet its burden and the true facts of this case were unknown to everyone inside the San Fernando courtroom, but he also said that the prosecutor asked the jury to take leaps.

"They are asking you to take a tremendous leap," he said. "The entire case against my client is built on circumstantial evidence."

Korn explained to the jury that convicting someone based upon circumstantial evidence requires them to "connect the dots."

"These dots are too far apart in this case," he said. "The problem with the prosecution's case is that they made a commitment from the inception of this case that my client did it.

"You are going to look at this case and say: 'Show me the beef. Where is it?'"

Gonzales was provided an opportunity to respond to Korn's closing statements.

"He talks about a rush to judgment and how the truth is elusive," she said. "Yet the law is crafted to deal with the elusive nature of facts. What happened in that bedroom will always elude us."

In response to Korn's argument about reasonability, Gonzales said to the jury that it was unreasonable to believe Esperanza Castro's defense.

"The defendant was in the house when Ramon Castro was beaten and killed and dragged from the second floor to the first," she said. "How is it reasonable that Esperanza Castro did not hear or know anything?

How could she reasonably not hear the garage door open or close?"

As for motive, the prosecutor told the jury that Esperanza Castro was the only person who could have killed her husband, stating she had an overt plan to take over Ramon Castro's business and benefit from his life insurance policy.

"She knew she would be left with nothing if she did not kill him," Gonzales said of the defendant. "She is the only person to ever threaten his life."

Gonzales concluded her closing statements just before 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon. Shortly afterward, Superior Court Judge Burt Pines instructed the jury to deliberate the case.

"You should try to agree on a verdict as a group, if you can," he said. "To return a verdict, all of you must agree to it."

No timeline was provided as to when a verdict would be reached, though both attorneys are on call today and Friday.


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