New Trial Ordered for Man Convicted in 1998 Shaken Baby Case; Attorneys Claim New Evidence Proves Innocence

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Armando Castillo.jpg
Arizona Department of Corrections
Armando Castillo will be re-tried on second-degree murder charges. His attorneys say he's innocent.
The Maricopa County Attorney's Office agreed this morning to a new trial for a man convicted in 1998 murder of his then-girlfriend's child.

Superior Court Judge Glenn Davis vacated Armando Castillo's conviction per the agreement and ordered a new trial as well as a status hearing to be held on February 16, to determine whether to release Castillo on bond.

Castillo has been in prison since 1998. Prior to going to prison, Castillo lived with his then-girlfriend, Clara Yates, and babysat her child, Steve Young Jr. According to court records filed by the Arizona Justice Project, Yates trusted Castillo with her son because he had three children of his own from another relationship.

On June 13, 1998, Yates left her son with Castillo while she went to work. When she returned, Castillo left to pick up his children so they could go swimming in their pool. Later that evening, Yates went to check on her son and found that he had "snot" coming out of his nose. Yates thought he was choking on his own vomit, and when she picked him up, he gasped and went unconscious.

Paramedics arrived a short while later and found that his airway was full of vomit. He was taken to the hospital and placed in intensive care. He died the next day.

During his autopsy, medical examiner Dr. Mark Fischione noted the presence of a subdural hematoma and retinal hemorrhages -- bleeding in the brain and eyes.

Dr. Kay Rauth-Farley, a child abuse specialist, was called by Phoenix police about the case, and concluded that Steven had been shaken, leading to his death.

Because shaken baby syndrome, or SDS, was believed at the time to result in immediate loss of consciousness, the police focused their investigation on the two people who had been with Young Jr. on that day: Yates and Castillo.

Castillo denied harming the child and passed two lie detector tests to that effect, but he was nevertheless charged with the crime. Fischione and Farley testified at trial that the bleeding was a sure-sign of abuse and Castillo was convicted, according to court records.

Shaken baby-syndrome had its heyday as a medical theory in the 1990s, and while it has not been entirely discredited it has become quite controversial in recent years. Last summer, New Times reported on the case of Lisa Randall, a daycare operator who was charged with murder in a similar case that was dismissed.

In 2007, Castillo learned that there was new debate over SBS. He sent the Maricopa County Medical Examiner's records in the case of Steven Young Jr. to a medical pathologist who concluded in 2008 that Steve Young Jr. did not die from SBS. From there, he contacted the Arizona Justice Project, which took his case.

Last April, project attorneys Stephen Leshner and Larry Hammond filed a petition for post-conviction relief requesting an evidentiary hearing for a new trial.

In their brief, they argued that Castillo's original attorney provided deficient counsel by not disputing the cause of death, that new medical research exists to cast doubt on SBS as the cause of death in this case, and that the jury, "armed with a different timeline" and "new evidence" that confirms "an older abdominal injury" would have been fatal, "probably would not have found Armando Castillo guilty beyond a reasonable doubt."

In their petition, Leshner and Hammond point out that Steve Young Jr. had been sick in the days leading up to his collapse. He was not eating, had a fever, and was vomiting, leading them to think he had the flu. A series of strange bruises had begun to appear on his body, most notably on his abdomen.

According to court records, Steve Young Jr.'s father, Steve Young Sr., had not seen his son regularly after breaking up with Yates. That changed in April 1998, when he began seeing his son regularly. Steve Sr. watched his son from June 1-3 and 8-10. Around June 7, Yates noticed that Young Jr. had "unexplained" bruises on his abdomen and scrotum.

The brief recounts an incident where Castillo asked Young Jr. about his injuries and he said, "Owee, belly, Kelly," which Castillo took to mean Young's girlfriend.

"Just about two weeks before he died, Steven got a black eye. It was big and covered a good portion of his face, and Steve Sr. claimed it was caused by a tire swing; but Armando said when he asked Steven Jr. how it happened, Steven said, 'Owee, football, daddy,'" the brief states

The point in the petition is not that Clara Yates or Steve Young Sr. killed Steve Young Jr., but that Young Jr. did not die as a result of SBS and that other "leads" were present to investigators.

The Justice Project cites three experts in its brief to support its argument that Young Jr. did not die of Shaken Baby Syndrome.

The first is Dr. Janice Ophoven, assistant medical examiner for St. Louis County, Minnesota, who testifies that the diagnosis of SBS was not "scientifically sound."

Pediatric Neuroradiologist Dr. Patrick Barnes testified that the injuries sustained by Young Jr. were 3-7 days older than prosecutors believed, and that Young Jr.'s death was likely caused by oxygen deprivation rather than blunt trauma.

Finally, Dr. Patrick Hannon, a biomechanics expert, testified that the description of the child's brain given to the jury was "inaccurate," and argued that the lack of grip marks or damage to the spine indicated the baby had not been shaken. He claims that the likely cause of death was a blow to the abdomen that had left bruising.

Castillo was on the verge of tears throughout today's hearing. He is a thin man with short and neat hair, who spent much of the hearing bent in prayer. When the judge walked in, he took a deep breath that could be heard in the back of the courtroom.

His parents, wife, uncles, and a good friend from Colorado came to the hearing to show their support, along with most of the Justice Project staff.

Armando Castillo's attorneys argue that he should be released on his own recognizance until trial, and noted that he was not a flight risk because his family had pledged their support, he has already served much of his sentence, and has a job lined up for him with local attorney Guy Brown.

Prosecutors disagree, noting that the charges - second-degree murder and child abuse - are serious, and that he should be released only on bond. The judge ordered a pretrial services hearing for next week to determine bond. From there, his trial is expected to begin within the next sixty days.


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43 comments
swoolary
swoolary

Sorry about spelling. Very hard writing about this. It's been bottled up all these years. I should proof read better. His comment after laughing is that My God will forgive me. It's still hard for me reliving all the people he hurt. Clair, Steve, our family. I have a echoing bad memory of all his family screaming and crying when the guilty verdict came in. I know he did it. I cac go on and on. If he was sorry he would say it, but he is still thinking about the only person in the universe that he cares about.

swoolary
swoolary

I met them in the hospital when Clair didn't know what was wrong with him. Mondo kept refusing to let minister in to pray for him. Odd. Then I went in to visit Steven and had a conversation with his nurse that I had worked with for years. I had to break the news to Clair that he wasn't hoing to live. I've never heard such crying. While she was screaming mondo kept babbling. Saying that they couldn't prove a thing, just like cps couldn't prove a thing with one of his sons. Then he went to her purse and got car keys and left. Later found out he took all her money. Over the next two days he called me twice begging me to contact Clair and convince her that. She needed him. Second phone call he admitted he did it, then laughed and said my gog will forgive me. I will also never forget how hard Steve cryer when they told him what happened to Steven. I don't know why the lawyers wouldn't use me, but I guess it doesn't matter. He admitted it and they still let him out. He's guilty. Gog knows it and that's who he has to fear. I'm sorry for the people who have loved and trusted him.

Romeroj36
Romeroj36

innocent innocent innocent! Armandos a great guy. After him having 3 kids and never layin a finger on them why would he attack this kid. Already talks about the kid coming back from dads house with bruises numerous amount of times. im guessing mando did that tooo? you guys need to get it that everythings pointing in that direction. Armando even passed two lie detector tests. How many exactly did the dad pass? Just buy seeing mando out of prison, He did good in prison. wasnt mixed up in anything, looked strong and healthy and blessed to be out. You can see when some people get out that, that is their "life" they dont care if they go back. but mando being innocent and out, hes bessed to be out wont ever forget the look on his face. Must be the best feeling ever to be innocent and free

Guest
Guest

Guilty Guilty Guilty... Evidence will prove!!!!!!!!!!!

Kadmos
Kadmos

The best assumption is to say he may or may not have done it. Even if the final result shows he did shake a kid that was 2.5 (that's too old for "shaken baby" because they are now young kids) years when killed, I find it mandatory to look in at the smallest amount of evidence suggesting innocence.

Mar69ie
Mar69ie

what is wrong with you guys,there is no timeline.stevens spine was severed,which means PARALIZED!!!WHICH ALSO MEANS IF HIS FATHER DID IT HE WOULDNT BE ABLE TO WALK WHEN STEVE DROPPED HIM OFF.Get a clue.what is it that you guys just dont seem to get through your heads that he would not have been moving if he would have been dropped off like that.once your spine is severed you cannot move.there is no possible way of a timeline cause you cant get around the fact stevens spine was severed

Sandyinaz45
Sandyinaz45

that pathetic judge davis has no medical knowledge and did not even consult any medical opionion, that is the reason a baby killer got a new trial.

SeenIt4Myself
SeenIt4Myself

mar69ie,I know it would be impossible to believe that Clara and Steve could have commited this crime, maybe it was an accident (we would all hope no one could purposly hurt an innocent child,)but I was not there. I can say Armando did NOT do this, the evidence will prove this, if it even goes back to court. Armando has a clear concious, he's shed many tears, not tears of guilt, tears of sadness....for Steven, he loved that little boy and spoke of him all the time. A guilty concious is shown by avoidance, something Armando never did. Showing emotion in a courtroom is a sign of weakness.Anyone who isn't familar with the Justice Project should read about them. They will research a case for years before they take it, they will NOT take a case they can't win.

Innoent
Innoent

I'm sorry to hear that the state didn't inform Clara or Steven that the Medical Examiner agrees with Castillo's witnesses. It has to be hard on her, but the evidence doesn't lie Armando is innocent

Shellie Powers
Shellie Powers

I am sad to hear about another innocent person serving time for a crime he did not commit. My fiance was accused of the same thing.....it is very clear that it was not a case of shaken baby nor abuse. He was appointed a public defender that did nothing and stated if he went to trial he would spend life in prison, he took a plea that was suppose to be 3- 5 years since he had never been in trouble and he ended up getting 20 years. If we could got back to that day I would have requested a trial even if we knew the pd was not going to represent him well! We are fighting for post conviction and we will not gives up on fighting for his freedom! I wish this man all the best and if he is truly innocent, LET HIM GO!!!!

Gnl0821
Gnl0821

Most everyone are aware Polygraph results are used as a tool for interrogation, even though not admissible in court. They can provide investigators an idea of how truthful, or not, a subject may be. Lying is only one possible cause for someone to fail a polygraph. Others are fear, embarrassment, anger, etc. However there those who feel no guilt over crimes or are so deep in denial they delude themselves into believing their own lies. ‘Some are known to ‘ think every day of their victim ’ which is penitence for their action. Sometimes this stems from doing the crime or getting caught. This will essentially come down to which ‘medical expert’ can provide the most complex medical terminology, graphs, conjecture, theories, etc.

The good thing is that recurring feeling of guilt won’t ever go away.

Wildchild250r
Wildchild250r

It's good to know that there are places like AZ Justice Project that will look into cases that might be lacking evidence,so that way when we do a second trial and he is still GUILTY, I hope they fry his ass...... who cares if he is a father of three,so are the people that commit these horrible crimes.

Gnl0821
Gnl0821

All very well written but from one who Sat in the courtroom throughout much of the trail and listened to the 'poor Defendent's' testimoney I say it will come out Armando is guilty, guilty guilty.

Joe Friday
Joe Friday

Lets also hope that if he is exonerated of this crime, he is justly compensated for 16 years of wrongful imprisonment and exposes the likes of the original ME and the so-called "child abuse expert", who is likely a paid state expert witness that produces compelling testimony to juries on behalf of the state. The fact that Castillo voluntarily submitted to 2 polygraph exams, passing both, one might think the prosecution might have had some doubt and investigated the situation a bit deeper.

ByStander
ByStander

We are keeping our fingers crossed for Armando's freedom, even though he's innocent, there wasn't a day that went by that he didn't speak or think of Steven!

Georgia28ford
Georgia28ford

he wasnt 2.5 he barely turned two four days prior

Itsme09
Itsme09

Wow. I guess you never read the autopsy report and you find it ok to make stuff up to back up your assumptions. Dr. Fishcione, the ME who did the autopsy clearly states in his report that there was NO NECK OR SPINAL CORD TRAUMA, nor was there any soft tissue damage done to his neck. Since your grammer is so poor, maybe you can't read either and that's why you make flat out lies in your posts. You guys posted the autopsy report on your own website. Why don't you have someone read it to you?

1whoknows
1whoknows

If you were listening, you would have heard the judge say that he read all the medical evidence that was presented. The judge can't go seeking his own experts to ask them what they think. He has to rely on evidence thats presented. And for the state to agree to a new trial, and for both the trial judge and judge Davis to agree to a new trial, I think that evidence must be overwhelming,

Tweetybird69
Tweetybird69

REALLY????? And you know this how?? Did you follow the judge around 24/7 prior to him making this ruling? Did you record his phone calls and look at his e-mails? How can you make a statement that the judge didn't consult any medical opinion? You have no idea what that judge did or didn't do prior to making his ruling.This is the same twisted thinking that allows you to jump to conclusions about Mr. Castillo's guilt. What you should be doing is forcing the State to show you this evidence and explain it to you so that you have all the facts.

Cocopuff31
Cocopuff31

He read the brief that had the opinion of three medical experts that put the timeline of injuries to when the paternal father has custody of little Steven. Too bad the State of Arizona has not felt it necessary to share the litigation that has gone on in thid case since last May with the family.

Itisme09
Itisme09

The fact that the State didn't explain any of this new evidence, nor did they explain to Clara or her family that even the ME who did the autopsy now agrees with Castillo's experts is inexcusable. That whole dog and pony show the State put on in court was to back pedal because they knew they were remiss in doing what they should have done and that's to have told Clara and her family the truth.

Truthinjustice
Truthinjustice

Luckily he has a clear conscious and doesn't have feelikngs of guilt

Truthinjustice
Truthinjustice

They never would have taken his case had he been guilty. All of the people involved are volunteers and can't waste precious resources on cases where there is any question as to innocence. Likewise, the State never would have agreed to a overturning his conviction if their evidence was all that strong. He will NEVER go back to prison for this.

Innoent
Innoent

Mando Castillo is INNOCENT he would never harm a sole let alone a child! He has 3 kids of his own! Steven's father is the one who should have been in prison for the past 12 years!

Truthinjustice
Truthinjustice

At the time of Steven's death the doctors and medical examiner relied on what was believed to be true from a scientific standpoint. Today there is much more known about these types of injuries. Doctors that are top experts in their fields from across the country donated hours into doing testing on brain tissue that was still available from the ME's office, reviewing medical records from the hospital as well as the CT scan and all of them arrived at the same conclusion and that was that Steven died as a result of hypoxic brain injury as a result of vomiting and aspirating that vomit back into his lungs. None of these doctors saw each other's reports or even knew that there were other doctors reviewing the evidence. There are tests available today that prove conclusively that there was no injuries that occurred to Steven on that day or even within a couple of days. The ME's report even states that there was no neck or spinal cord injury which certainly would be present had he been shaken. It takes very little force to cause whiplash type injuries to the neck. Thank God for organizations such as the AZ Justice Project and for doctors that are willing to donate their time or this poor man would still be sitting in prison for a crime he didn't commit. For the State to concede to a new trial speaks volumes about the weakness of their evidence. They had an opportunity to put on their evidence during an evidentiary hearing yet they chose not to. They chose to concede to the new trial and they vacated the hearing. Now let's hope they do the right thing and dismiss the case all together.

Msnsmsu
Msnsmsu

Sadly, I know first hand that the State of AZ and the Maricopa County Medical Examiner's Office are NOT always truthful. Our system has grown very ill with corruption.They cover up and absolutely lie for their own gain - even at the expense of an innocent life. Please don't be so quick to judge when "the facts" may well be based on a lie!

Georgia28ford
Georgia28ford

actually my english test scores were probably better then yours now as an adult when i was twelve.i scored college level scores.and i will tell you what i tell everyone else..your a chickenshit bitch cause u cant even show ur name

Sunnyside
Sunnyside

What you also have to understand is that the trial judge, the one who sat in on the trial back in 1998 also agrees with Judge Davis's view. The trial judge was the one that granted the evidentiary hearing and made rulings that if this evidence had been known then, no one would have found him guilty. Judge's do not like to overturn convictions. For 2 judges to concurr says how strong the evidence is in Castillo's favor.

Mar69ie
Mar69ie

cause he has no concious.he didnt shed a tear when clara stated how much steven hd loved him and how he had broken both their hearts.

Innoent
Innoent

All will come out in the end it always does

Mar69ie
Mar69ie

let me tell you something.,...i wont hide behind a fake name to tell you how stupid you sound.i am claras oldest sister and neither clara or steve EVER harmed Steven.all thee comments are from family members only.how dare you say something about steve like that .steve was one of my best friends and i know he would never hurt his child.i will come all the way back from california when they send him back to prison where he belongs.the judge who vacated mondos sentance is immoral.you obviously dont have real faith in his innocence....you hide behind a fake name.i am marie childers and i personally know mondo and believe in my heart completely that he took the life of my nephew steven,stop attacking the parents.mondo is not the victim....steven is.....which you castillos seem to forget.

HATER
HATER

Lies Lies Lies

Terrimbeedle
Terrimbeedle

what 2 and half child has shaken baby syndrom

Melissa Zamora
Melissa Zamora

Well, Ms. Marie Childers I can't even imagine what it is like to lose a loved one especially a child, but for you and all your followers to believe that it is ok for any human being to suffer, good bad or indifferent only tells me you have allowed this to manifest in your life and continues to only hurt your soul instead of looking to forgive or pray for healing in your family, you have taken the short road to hatred and anger, which does not serve anyone, but make you just as evil as the one you dispise. I will stand in the gap and pray for all your souls.

Child Murderer on the loose
Child Murderer on the loose

What in the hell is wrong with people Marie?? Wow how many people did the Castillo's have to hire to put on this New Times which is full of prostitution and drugs. Couldnt even get a real newsperson to believe the bullshit. Have fun Castillo Lane.

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