Emily Detoto, TLC ’01 Grad. 

Ranulfo Castro was living with one woman but seeing another woman who had three daughters.  He had three grown children of his own.  He knew it was wrong to be living with one woman, while seeing another, but that didn’t make him a child molester.  He worked two jobs: one as a landscaper and another as a mechanic.  He worked these jobs to support himself, his common law wife, his children, and his girlfriend and her children. 

Ranulfo met the mother of the girl who would eventually accuse him of sexually assaulting her over a month’s time, because he was working on her car.  Her name was Sandra.  Sandra and Ranulfo hit it off and she began sharing personal stories about herself, and the two began speaking almost daily.  About two weeks after Sandra and Ranulfo met, Ranulfo learned that Sandra was engaged to another man, and that she was going to move, along with her children and this man, to Seguin, Texas, a small town outside of San Antonio.  Ranulfo said goodbye to Sandra and didn’t expect to hear from her again.  But a short time later, he received a call from Sandra, telling him that the relationship with this man didn’t work out.  Sandra asked Ranulfo if he would please drive all the way to Seguin to retrieve her and her children because they had no money and no way to make it back to Houston.  Ranulfo agreed, and he drove all the way to Seguin, Texas to pick up Sandra and her daughters, and helped them get an apartment, and eventually began supporting Sandra and her family.  He paid their rent, bought them food, clothing, and became like a father figure to the family.

Eventually, Ranulfo began falling behind on his own bills and responsibilities because he was so busy trying to please Sandra and pay her bills.  Eventually, he decided he would not afford to pay the monthly expenses Sandra required, and he let Sandra know as much.  Shortly thereafter, Ranulfo was accused of sexually assaulting Sandra’s 8 year old daughter, VF.  He was accused of performing oral sex on VF and also of having sex with VF over a period of more than a month. According to the offense report and the testimony told the jury at Ranulfo’s trial, Sandra didn’t immediately call the police when her daughter allegedly told her about the abuse.  Instead, Sandra waited one whole day before calling the police.  When the HPD police officer came, he tried to interview Sandra and her daughter, but neither of them spoke English, and he didn’t speak Spanish, so he had another one of Sandra’s daughters, who was around 14 years old, translate for VF and Sandra, and what was told was a horrific story of abuse and threats Ranulfo allegedly made to VF, that if she told anyone, Ranulfo would stop paying Sandra’s rent. The police office collected no evidence from the scene.  They failed to take the blanket form the sofa where the alleged sexual assault had allegedly taken place just the very day before, nor did the police officer collect the clothing VF was wearing the day Ranulfo allegedly sexually assaulted her. 

VF was examined by the Dr’s at Texas Children’s Hospital, where there was no DNA found, nor was there any injury to the child’s “private parts.” 

Ranulfo gave two video taped statements to the police who were investigating his case.  In each tape, he maintained his innocence and told the police how he believed these ladies were making this story up for financial motives.  It was the typical story of greed and revenge.  It is no wonder, that the DA’s office did NOT introduce Ranulfo’s exculpatory statements into evidence.  And because they were his own statements, I, as his lawyer could not introduce them into evidence at his trial.

Ranulfo waited over 2.5 years for his day in court and over the course of two days we picked a jury out of 170 people.  This jury understood that not all allegations of child sexual assault were true.  This jury also understood that children can lie and that a mother can be so consumed with rage, greed and the need for revenge that she can force her child to lie, especially if the child was dependent on the mom.  This jury promised me that they would not lower the State’s burden of proof just because it was a serious allegation and they also understood that this charge was the easiest to accuse someone of, and the hardest to defend yourself against. 

In my closing argument, I let the jury know that when they went home and told their friends and family that they found Ranulfo not guilty of aggravated sexual assault of a child, that their friends and family would make fun of them, be mad at them, call them cowards, soft on crime, and un-American.  I told them that  they could proudly go home and look those people in the eye and tell them that they swore to uphold their oath and hold the Government to the highest burden in law, and that they could not in good conscience brand Ranulfo a felon, a child molester and possibly sentence him to LIFE in prison, based upon what the evidence the State brought them.  I then laid out why they could be proud of their verdict they were about to render, and I gave them permission to be a hero!!!!!

After about 9 hours of deliberations over two days, the jury sent us a note indicating they were deadlocked on one charge, and that vote never changed.  The judge then brought the jury in, and they returned one verdict of not guilty in the count alleging Ranulfo performed oral sex on VF and I then moved and was granted a mis-trial on the cause they were deadlocked on.

We are scheduled to re-try the deadlocked case on November 29, 2012. 

Emily Detoto

TLC 2001