Inmate convicted of son’s death argues charges that sent him to prison

Reporter: Taylor Petras Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:
Ryan Christian Costello, 42. Credit: Lee County Sheriff’s Office.

Inmate Ryan Christian Costello, 42, was sentenced to 30 years in prison after being accused of beating his son to death in 2010. He was convicted in 2013, and Monday we learned he is fighting to get back into a courtroom.

Costello’s attorney argues he was convicted of something he was never charged with. He says this is a fundamental error to his client’s right to due process.

In 2013 a jury found Costello guilty of the death of his infant son, Darwin.

Attorney Chris Brown represents Costello today, but wasn’t Costello’s attorney during his original trial.

“It’s almost a way of saying ‘do over’ because it was so unfair,” Brown said. “Mr. Costello was put in a position of being convicted by a jury of conduct he was never charged with.”

Brown says prosecutors convinced a judge to allow for an aggravated manslaughter of a child charge as an option for the jury to find Costello guilty of.

Brown argues it was a last-minute move from the state that Costello and his lawyers couldn’t prepare for.

“It would be as if you were charged with a burglary and you hired a lawyer and you went to trial on a burglary. And at the last second, the prosecutor said, ‘Well I would like to include on the jury form, sale of cocaine,’” Brown said. “I think it’s very clever, but I don’t think it’s necessarily fair.”

Brown says the aggravated manslaughter charge carried a higher punishment than regular manslaughter, which Brown says the jury likely didn’t know and sent Costello to prison for a 30-year imprisonment.

Brown says, if the judge grants their petition, the only remedy he sees is this going to another trial. If the judge does not side with them, they can try to appeal the judge’s decision. The judge will hear their argument May 3.

“Whatever happens with this, his child isn’t coming back,” Brown said. “There’s nothing anybody can do to undo what I believe was a horrible accident.”

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