US & Canada

Lawyer for Ariel Castro says suicide watch was needed

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionBBC's David Willis: "Upon finding Ariel Castro, prison medical staff began performing life-saving measures"

Ariel Castro, who kept women captive at his Ohio home, should not have been taken off suicide watch in June before his conviction, his lawyer has said.

A post-mortem examination found Castro, 53, hanged himself in his cell, a month after being sentenced to life in jail.

"There's still an obligation to prevent our inmates from committing suicide," Castro's lawyer Craig Weintraub said.

Castro held three women in chains at his Cleveland home for about a decade until May. He raped them repeatedly.

'No risk'

During his trial, Castro was taken off suicide watch after authorities determined he was not at risk of taking his own life.

On 26 July Castro pleaded guilty to over 900 separate charges, in a deal that protected him from the death penalty.

Castro was sentenced on 1 August to life imprisonment without parole plus 1,000 years.

He hanged himself on 3 September in his isolation cell in Orient, Ohio.

The prosecutor who tried Castro called him a "coward" unable to withstand "a small portion" of what he had inflicted.

But Mr Weintraub told Cleveland newspaper the Plain Dealer: "He's still a human being. This is still a civilised society."

Prison authorities denied Castro permission to receive independent mental counselling, even though he had previously contemplated suicide and was likely to suffer depression after his life sentence, Mr Weintraub told Reuters news agency.

"We were never provided any explanation" for being denied independent mental health care, he said. "We don't know what the rationale was, to take him off suicide watch."

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionAriel Castro at his sentencing: "I'm not a monster, I'm a normal person, I am just sick, I have an addiction"

Protective custody

Castro was placed in protective custody because of his notoriety. His cell was checked every 30 minutes.

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction said its mental health staff found that Castro did not need to be placed on suicide watch, which would have meant a guard checked on him every 15 minutes, AFP news agency reports.

"Our... mental health staff determined this," said spokeswoman Ricky Seyfang. "Suicide watch was not required for him."

The department said it would review the death and publish findings within a month.

The former school bus driver abducted Michelle Knight, 32, Amanda Berry, 27, and Gina DeJesus, 23, from the Cleveland streets between 2002-04.

The three women escaped from Castro's home on 6 May.

In an interview last month after his conviction, Castro's lawyers said that he fit the profile of someone with a sociopathic disorder.