No verdict returned in Castle case

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 27, 2003

They're working on it.

The eight woman, four man jury in the aggravated arson trial of Ironton businessman Garry Castle will try again today to arrive at a verdict. The jury was sent home yesterday evening at 8:30, after deliberating for more than six hours.

"If they're willing to keep trying, we're willing to let them keep trying," Special Judge Fred Crow, of Meigs County, said as he released the jury for the evening.

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Earlier in the day, just after he had rested his case, defense attorney Robert Toy sought unsuccessfully to have the jury instructed on the definitions of both arson and criminal damaging, as opposed to aggravated arson. This would have allowed the jury to find Castle, 49, of 1919 S. Ninth St., Ironton, guilty or innocent of any of the three charges.

Toy maintained throughout presentation of his case yesterday that while Castle admitted to setting the March 28 blaze that gutted his Third Street business, the Shake Shoppe, he did not intend to, and is not guilty of aggravated arson, which is defined as "knowingly creating a substantial risk of serious physical harm" to the firefighters who were called to fight the blaze.

During the presentation of the defense's case, Putnam County firefighter and fire origin and cause investigator Mike Foster had testified that the gasoline used to set the fire did not necessarily make the fire any more hazardous than any other fire. Foster also testified that the Ironton Fire Department should have used a foam product specially created for gasoline fires to put out the blaze.

"That foam would have put out the fire in 30 seconds," Foster said.

But Foster agreed during cross-examination that he had not talked to Ironton fire fighters about their perceptions of the fire when they arrived on the scene, and had not actually spoken with the firefighters about what they did while they were on scene at the time of the fire.

Ironton firefighters said they did not know until they went into the building that the fire had been set by using gasoline, and that if the gas vapors had exploded while they were in or very close to the building, they could have been killed.

During closing arguments, Lawrence County prosecutor J.B. Collier Jr. told the jury this was "a very straightforward case," that Castle had planned the arson for days, and that firefighters put their lives on the line to put out a fire that was made more dangerous by the use of gasoline.

"Thank God none of them were hurt," Collier said.

In his closing argument, Toy said the prosecution had not proved beyond reasonable doubt that Castle actually tried to harm anyone by setting the


"I'm not condoning what happened, and I'm not trying to minimize the risk potential for the firefighters, but you've got to look at the facts as they were presented," Toy said.

Castle faces 3 to 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine if he is found guilty of the aggravated arson charge.