Cuyahoga County prosecutor Timothy McGinty said his office will decide whether to bring aggravated murder charges against Castro, punishable by death in connection with the pregnancies that were terminated by force.
"Capital punishment must be reserved for those crimes that are truly the worst examples of human conduct," he said. "The reality is we still have brutal criminals in our midst who have no respect for the rule of law or human life."
Are these public declarations seeking the ultimate punishment just bluster?
This week, only days after Gosnell’s conviction, he was sentenced to three consecutive life prison terms without parole for each murder in exchange for waiving his appeal rights.
Can we expect the same thing down the road for Castro?
“Nobody has ever been prosecuted [in] a full-fledged death penalty case based on pregnancy termination all the way through,” said Douglas Berman, a law professor law at Ohio State University.
Cuyahoga County has a history of using the death penalty as a bargaining chip in plea negotiations?
McGinty’s predecessor Bill Mason pursued dozens of offenders on capital charges each year. From 2009 to 2011, Cuyahoga County indicted 135 defendants on charges that could result in a death sentence. Only two of those offenders were sent to death row.
Hamilton County, home to Cincinnati, has sent the most inmates to Ohio's death row -- 61 over 30 years -- though the county has indicted fewer than 200 people on aggravated murder in three decades. Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters said in an interview last year, "To use the death penalty to force a plea bargain, I think it's unethical to do that."
When Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed legislation last year to abolish the death penalty, prosecutors lamented the loss of an effective crime fighting tool. Although conceding that the death penalty should not be used as a bargaining chip, Illinois prosecutor Eric Weis said, “Most people fear death more than life; and most, when facing that, will take a second look.”
(Image: Dr. Kermit Gosnell in an undated photo released by the Philadelphia District Attorney's office. Associated Press)
Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George, P.C. He is the former district attorney of Lawrence County and just completed a six year term on the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole. His weekly column on crime and punishment is syndicated by GateHouse New Service. You can read his musings on the criminal justice system at www.mattmangino.com and follow Matt on Twitter @MatthewTMangino.