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Jury considering Orange County school shooter case

Posted August 20, 2009

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— Prosecutors and defense attorneys made their closing arguments Thursday in the case of an Orange County man charged with fatally shooting his father before opening fire at Orange High School. The jury got the case at about 4:30 p.m. They were dismissed for the day at 5 p.m. and are expected to resume deliberations Friday morning.

Alvaro Castillo, 22, is charged with killing Rafael Huezo Castillo, on Aug. 30, 2006, and then driving to Orange High School with a cache of weapons and opening fire. Two students were injured in the school shooting, which ended when school personnel tackled the gunman.

He has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to all charges.

Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall said Alvaro Castillo planned the attacks to gain notoriety.

"He wants fame. He's got to kill somebody, and he's got to do in a way that gets attention. Only thing he can come up with is the thing that has interested him for a long time: school shootings, mass murders," Woodall said.

Alvaro Castillo’s defense attorney, James Williams, countered that argument with an explanation of how Castillo’s “delusional belief” led to the acts.

“I’ll be the first to admit, a lot of planning went into this,” Williams said. “All the planning was driven by this delusional belief that this had to be done.”

“The premise that someone sick or delusional can’t plan is totally untenable,” Williams argued.

He said Alvaro Castillo was goal focused. He had a "false, fixed belief that God wants him to do certain things and that relates to sacrificing his family and sacrificing children at Orange High School," Williams said.

“He had to get done what he felt God wanted him to do.”

Woodall countered with excerpts from the suspect’s journal, in which he wrote that he knew he would need to ask God for forgiveness. “Why do you say ‘God forgive me’ if you’re doing what God’s directing you to do?” Woodall asked.

"He did not know the difference between right and wrong,” Williams said. “Indeed, he thought what he was doing was the right thing."

Williams said Alvaro Castillo developed a mental illness to "psychically survive" abuse from his father against himself, siblings and mother.

Attorneys sparred over one example of abuse – that Rafael Castillo forced his children eat fruits and vegetables. While Williams said that Rafael Castillo beat his children when they didn't vegetables, Woodall asked, "How much was he enforcing his beliefs about what they eat if his son weighs 195 pounds (in seventh grade)?"

Alvaro Castillo deliberately "manipulated" and "deceived" his mental health providers so they wouldn't latch onto his homicidal desires, Woodall said. "He knows if he tells people too much they're going to stop him," he said.

Since "there's no question" Alvaro Castillo committed the shootings, the defense "demonized" Rafael Castillo and exaggerated physical and verbal abuse by Rafael Castillo, Woodall claimed.

"They've got to create a situation where his murder is a little more palatable to you. The way to do that is to turn him into a demon," he said.

The slaying of Rafael Castillo was violent revenge, Woodall argued. He referred to a statement from Alvaro Castillo's mother, Vicky, that he shot his father multiple times to make sure he didn't suffer and end up in a vegetative condition.

"Shooting dad six times, seven times, while in a totally defenseless position, that's, ‘I'm getting back at you for things you've done to me.’ That's not, ‘I don't want you to suffer.’ That's ‘I'm (angry) at you, and I'm going to show you: bang, bang, bang,’" Woodall said.

Defense attorneys urged jurors not to consider the slaying of Rafael Castillo and the school shooting as part of the same event. The abuse and mental illnesses are mitigating factors that could justify lowering the charge to second-degree murder, they argued.

"Rafael Castillo was not killed as some incident or byproduct of another felony," defense attorney Phoebe Dee said. "He was shot in the course of being shot."

She concluded, "The question, ladies and gentleman, is whether or not he was insane at the time these events occurred or whether or not he had diminished capacity. Everything else, I would argue, that the state is going to talk to you about is this white noise; it’s distraction."


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  • miketroll3572 Aug 21, 2009

    I just don't see how the defense lawyers sleeps at night.....

  • time4real Aug 20, 2009

    what's to consider, you're wsting my tax dollars, use them for something else and spare me!

  • Professor Aug 20, 2009

    THIS is why I can't be on a jury, guilty guilty guilty!
    Chatham Rebel

    That is why you will never be put on a jury. I am thankful for that. Innocenct until proven guilty.

  • Professor Aug 20, 2009

    This chump will be eating the best chicken Hillsborough has to offer, and it is on your dime.

    Yes. wherever he goes you will be paying for his stay and upkeep including his food. lol lol

  • Professor Aug 20, 2009

    and send this guilty man to a life sentence in prison without any chance of parole.
    Lead by Example

    Either that or put in a mental institution for life.

  • Lead by Example Aug 20, 2009

    I hope the jury has the good judgement to see past this insanity nonsense and send this guilty man to a life sentence in prison without any chance of parole.

  • Slip Kid Aug 20, 2009

    The lawyers spend so much time splitting hairs. He says tomato - I say tomatoe. Sure, the right to good legal defense is appropriate, but if the arguement is whether a sane person would do these criminal acts, as "You and I" wouldn't, then there should either be no insanity defense or nobody is ever guilty of ANY crime - because the 'rest of us' would never do that so you must be innocent by reason of insanity. Catch-22.

    That being said, you cannot be 'normal' and do this or similar crimes, so looking for a not guilty verdict is really pointless and just causing everybody (still living!) a lot of emotional pain. Lawyers sometimes just need to do the right thing and not fanagle to the Nth degree about every nuance about a person that is obviously and confessedly guilty!

  • yellow_hat Aug 20, 2009

    "THIS is why I can't be on a jury, guilty guilty guilty!"

    So charged=guilty in your book? Wow - that is truly scary. If you are ever called for jury duty, please make sure that you tell the attorneys and judge your feelings.

  • houndsforme Aug 20, 2009

    Insanity -- Anyone would have to be to kill their parent using his excuse. And to shoot innocent persons at a school, yes insane.

    But, to argue he did not "know" his actions were wrong? Right. He knew then and he knows now. His defense is just trying to get him on lesser charges to reduce the sentence.

    My vote, fry him. Publicly. So, all other insane people who know what they are doing will earn them.

  • miketroll3572 Aug 20, 2009

    I just hope the jury is smart enough to see through all the lies.