Abraham Lincoln had it right when he said, “He who represents himself has a fool for a client.” However, no one could convince Joseph McAlpin of that when he decided to represent himself on a charge of capital murder, the first time anyone has done something this foolish in the history of the Cuyahoga County criminal justice system.
Of course, he lost the case, and perhaps he now will lose his life via execution at some point if they jury so decides during the penalty phase of the trial and the moratorium on death sentences is lifted. This raises the question: Can McAlpin later claim “ineffective assistance of counsel” at some point down the line, since clearly, judging by the outcome, that was the case.
But with that said, I can kinda understand why this dude wanted to defend himself: It was his life on the line and he rightly surmised that no one would give as impassioned defense as he would present for himself. He took his life and future into his own hands, and I’ll give him credit for one thing: he didn’t flinch one bit when the guilty verdict was read. Something that only proves what a cold-blooded killer he really is.
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Muny Court Judge Michael Nelson, who almost single-handedly started the ball rolling on the investigation of the Cuyahoga County Jail by refusing to send those citizens brought into his courtroom to jail except in the most egregious cases, is once again nudging the process by calling for a federal judge to oversee the facility via a consent decree. And again, he is right.
It’s the nature of institutions and public bodies to protect themselves, but when lives are on the line all bets should be off. The county administration has an obligation to improve conditions at the jail at a rapid pace, but if officials are to a degree digging in their heels trying to defend the indefensible, then Judge Nelson is right: Federal oversight is needed.
Additionally, the judge’s observations regarding bail reform (which would lead to a lessening of the overcrowding at the jail and thus fewer deaths) are also accurate. This issue, which other communities across the state and country have been addressed is being stalled here in Cuyahoga County and one has to wonder why. Could it be that local bail bondsmen (who really are insurance agents) are using the clout of one of the most powerful lobbies in the country to forestall change? Follow the money.
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And lastly, I don’t want to point a finger of racism and sexism at the political powers that be in Cuyahoga County, but the fact that the failure to protect unionized workers as changes are made to the medical and other staff at the County Jail seems somewhat suspect. Now it could just be another manifestation of incompetence in the county administrator’s office, but then it again it could be something else altogether.
Kamala Harris (a black female) is a serious contender for the Democratic presidential nomination and is slated to come to Cuyahoga County to give the keynote at the annual fundraising dinner of the Democratic Party. But that dinner is in jeopardy of being picketed by local unions. Shontel Brown, the chair of the local Democratic Party, is also a black female.
However, I strongly suspect that virtually all of the people butting heads and not coming to a reasoned compromise over the issues are white males. I’m not making accusations (well, maybe I am) but I don’t think we would be at the point of making ourselves look like complete political idiots on the nation stage — when getting ready for 2020 should be of primary concern — if those facing embarrassment were not black females. Just saying.
From CoolCleveland correspondent Mansfield B. Frazier mansfieldfATgmail.com. Frazier’s From Behind The Wall: Commentary on Crime, Punishment, Race and the Underclass by a Prison Inmate is available in hardback. Snag your copy and have it signed by the author at http://NeighborhoodSolutionsInc.