Hearing Set for Motion to Overturn Castillo Conviction

A Dec. 5 court hearing was set this morning for Braulio M. Castillo’s motion seeking to overturn a verdict that could send him to prison for life in the murder of his estranged wife.

Following a five-week trial in Loudoun County Circuit Court, Castillo was convicted in June of first-degree murder in the death of Michelle Castillo in her Ashburn home.

He was scheduled to be sentenced last week, but his attorneys filed an 87-page motion seeking to set aside the jury’s verdict. Among their claims is that the circumstantial evidence in the case was insufficient for a guilty verdict and that county prosecutors improperly swayed the jury by casting prejudicial aspersions on Castillo’s lawyers and making unsupported statements during closing arguments.

“The purpose of this motion is not to ‘retry’ the case, but rather to make clear the need for this Court to review the verdict in light of the clear lack of evidence and impossible and unsupported theories put forward by the Commonwealth,” the motion reads. “The verdict could not have been based on a factual bedrock leading to a conclusion of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.”

During the trial, prosecutors claimed that Castillo jogged from his nearby home to his wife’s house, snuck inside and then strangled her in her bedroom, while their children were asleep in the home. He then took her body to a basement bathroom and made it appear that she hanged herself in the shower. The couple was in the final stages of getting a divorce. Castillo’s attorneys argued that there was no conclusive evidence that he was in the home that night or that Michelle Castillo had not committed suicide.

The motion cites one of Loudoun’s most infamous murder cases. In 1985, William “Bull” Evans-Smith was charged with strangling his wife of 43-years with pantyhose. In what was also a circumstantial evidence case, Evans-Smith was tried, convicted of the murder and sentenced to 20 years in prison. The case was overturned on appeal based on a finding that inadmissible hearsay testimony was allowed. He was tried and convicted again. That verdict was voided by a federal appeals court that ruled there was insufficient evidence to sustain a conviction.

While Evans-Smith was quickly identified as the suspect in Barbara Evans-Smith’s death, the defendant claimed investigators ignored a suspicious van he reported seeing on the road near their home on the day of her killing.

Castillo’s attorneys claim prosecutors in this case similarly linked pieces of circumstantial evidence together in a way that supported their theory, but failed to exclude other possibilities.

“Just as in Evans-Smith, the Commonwealth in the case began with the conclusion that Mr. Castillo, as the soon to be ex-husband of Ms. Castillo, must have been the perpetrator,” the motion stated.

Judge Stephen E. Sincavage has scheduled a two-hour hearing on the defense motion Dec. 5. If he denies the motion, Castillo is expected to face final sentencing on Dec. 9. Under Virginia law, Sincavage is permitted to reduce the jury’s recommended sentence of life in prison.

One thought on “Hearing Set for Motion to Overturn Castillo Conviction

  • 2016-10-15 at 2:17 pm

    These comments are based on incomplete facts and just plain wrong assumptions. His particular gait was observed in the video – how is that possible when the FBI testified you couldnt’ even tell if it was a man, woman, 8 ft tall or 3 tall person yet their gait was unmistakable? Seriously?! And No the son contradicted himself and in the end said NO I did not see my dad on cross the night of and blurted out to therapist months later – i DIDN’T see him that night.

    It will be a huge travesty of justice if Judge Sincavage does not vacate the conviction. If you read the motion filed by Mr. Greenspun, it seems clear this entire case has been a flagrant example of prosecutorial misconduct – from start to finish including a closing argument by the prosecutor that was riddled with unsubstantiated claims, outright lies and rife with drama to distract from the facts of the case. The Chief Medical Examiner for the State of MD testified after seeing all of the pictures and evidence that there was NO evidence this was anything other than a death by hanging as there were no signs of suffocation prior to death. A world renowned expert on death by hanging who also saw all of the pictures and evidence supported the MD medical examiners opinion and testified the manner of death was hanging by ligature. NOT suffocation prior to. The Loudoun Cty medical examiner has had other findings overturned already – she even testified she was making a questionable statement re: Mrs. Castillos death for the sole reason that the prosecutor told her to., not because it was her opinion. The fact that the prosecutor waited until closing arguments to give her ridiculous theory on what happened unquestionably demonstrated she knew she had no basis, evidence or facts for the preposterous scenario of Mrs. Castillo’s supposed suffocation by Mr Castillo. Most of this she saved for rebuttal so that the defense could not respond to show what she said simply wasn’t based on the evidence. Loudoun County should be ashamed that these prosecutors were chosen to prosecute a case of this magnitude when both their lack of ethics and winning at all costs attitude had them stepping over boundaries of ethics – right down to the most crucial -NOT respecting the attorney/client privilege due all Americans. Why didn’t Jim Plowman handle the biggest case in Loudoun Co. in decades? I pray the judge makes the right and only decision to be made and overturn this travesty of justice. PS Michelle’s own MOTHER thinks she hung herself and supported Mr. Castillo so for all you who believe all of the lies you read in the papers – think on that for a bit!

    The prosecutors courtroom demeanor was also reprehensible – Mrs Castillo’s friends and especially the prosecutor acted highly inappropriately during the trial with laughter and joviality and utter disrespect for the decedent right down to celebrating the conviction outside the courtroom when the result of that is 5 children have no parents to raise them anymore. On a final note, I hope Michelle’s friends and the jurors who joined them to party at a local winery on July 17 had a grand ol’ time. Just shameful.

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