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Surprises delay murder trial

• Juror faints, prosecutor on verge of tears.

Posted: April 16, 2008 12:26 a.m.
Updated: June 17, 2008 5:02 a.m.
SAN FERNANDO - A prosecutor on the verge of tears and a juror nearly fainting delayed closing arguments at the Esperanza Castro murder trial Tuesday as both sides continue to revisit the evidence.

Deputy District At-torney Paula Gonzales was granted extra time to prepare the last segment of her final argument when Superior Court Judge Burt Pines questioned her well-being.

When Gonzales shook her head, Judge Pines ordered a brief recess before bringing in the jury 30 minutes later than scheduled. Once jury members had taken their seats at 11 a.m., he asked Gonzales a second time about her well-being.

"Are you OK?," he asked her. "I understand there's something here, unrelated to the case. If it's going to disturb - we may not be able to proceed right now."

The judge asked the prosecutor if she required more time, but Gonzales launched into the final phase of the closing arguments that she began delivering Monday.

"(Esperanza Castro) was in the house when Ramon Castro was beaten and dragged out of the house," Gonzales said, showing the jury a series of photos depicting large amounts of blood and a bloody trail from the second floor, down the stairs and across the driveway.

Esperanza Castro, 45, is accused of killing her husband, Ramon, in the bedroom of their Canyon Country home on March 22, 2006, then leaving his bloody, near-naked body in the back of his pickup truck, abandoned under a Highway 14 overpass on Sierra Highway. She is also charged with conspiracy to commit murder.

Gonzales showed a photograph of a blood-spattered bedroom where it's alleged Ramon Castro was bludgeoned repeatedly about the head by someone wielding a metal pipe.

Esperanza was - according to statements she provided investigators - asleep in her downstairs bedroom when her husband was beaten.

"The amount of noise that it would have had to have made with this instrument, over and over and over," said Gonzales, holding up a metal pipe bigger than a tire iron and reminding the jury that the defendant reportedly did not hear the beating.

Gonzales, having fully regained her composure, addressed the issue of motive by pointing out that the Castros were in a loveless marriage, with both parties pursuing outside relationships, and that Esperanza Castro was the beneficiary of life insurance policies totaling $1.15 million.

The prosecution wrapped up its case a short time after the lunch break.

When Castro's defense lawyer, Peter Korn, began his closing argument, trying to display cell phone records on an overhead projected, one of the alternate jurors collapsed in court.

Judge Pines immediately called a 10 minute recess while the court clerk asked if anyone at court had medical training.

The female juror who had collapsed on her hands and knees by the jury box had almost fainted was taken to a back room to recover.

The defense argument was delayed for almost 30 minutes.

"We were concerned about your health," Judge Pines explained to the court. "And concerned about your ability to pay attention."

Korn is expected to resume his argument today.


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