Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Starlin Castro's Fate Likely Lies With Grand Jury

The fate of Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro -- who has been questioned in connection with a possible sexual assault -- likely lies with the office of State's Attorney Anita Alvarez, who can be expected to study police findings before deciding whether to send the young defendant through a gauntlet of courthouse appearances beginning with testimony before a Cook County grand jury.

Because Castro has not been charged with crime, authorities likely as not will resort to grand jury testimony from various witnesses,  including police, the plaintiff and the defendant, to determine whether evidence can substantiate accusations that otherwise cannot be resolved without a guilty plea, a finding of innocence at trial or a dismissal by a judge.  Thus the jurors have a dual responsibility in that they must see to it that justice is done while at the same time protecting the defendant against unfounded claims.

If the state's attorney's office finds evidence lacking,  the grand jury may not be necessary.  But if Castro is indicted, the case could be drawn out through much if not all of the 2012 baseball season, but not necessarily block Castro from playing while awaiting trial,  an event that could be postponed until fall or winter.

Though theoretically a defendant can also be bound over for trial without grand jury action if a judge determines probable cause as the result of a hearing,  the grand jury process is often favored in so-called classic cases of "he said, she said" contentiousness.

Castro's lawyers, Jay Reisinger and Michael Gillespie, said their investigation has determined that the allegations are "baseless."

The issues came to light after Chicago radio station WBBM 780 reported that Castro was the subject of a sexual assault investigation which allegedly occurred at a downtown apartment Sept. 29. A local woman whose identity is being withheld claimed said she had gone home with Castro after a night of drinking in a River North club.

She went to the emergency room the next day, prompting hospital officials to relay a description of her condition and other details to police, as required by law. Because the regular baseball season was over and the Cubs were not in post-season play, the next day Castro went home to the Dominican Republic, where extradition procedures can be difficult. While the U.S. legal system in based on English common law,  the Dominican Republic's system is based on Napoleonic Code, which in the United States is observed only in Louisiana.