by Kyle Swenson
Anthony Sowell, the Imperial Avenue man accused of brutally killing 11 women and burying them behind his Cleveland home, has been inside a courtroom since Friday. Both the state and defense attorneys are ramping up for the suspected serial killer’s long awaited trail, but in a surprise move, today the families of Sowell’s victims asked the prosecutor’s office to pump the brakes.
In a petition addressed to Bill Mason, family members of nine of the 11 victims requested the prosecutor accept a plea deal put on the table last week that would give Sowell life in prison without the chance for parole. The defendant has reportedly agreed to the offer, but Mason’s office backed out because the agreement would take the death penalty off the table.
The families’ petition asks Mason to reconsider.
We do not want to endure a trial. We do not want to be witnesses to a media spectacle where our loved ones' lives and the details of the horrendous criminal acts inflicted upon them are spotlighted.
We feel that our voices have not been heard as victims' families. A prolonged trial and re-enactment of Sowell's demented actions will create great distress on the families of the victims. Also, some closure and a measure of justice would be achieved by physically being present and witnessing Anthony Sowell stand before the Court and community and acknowledge his guilt to all these murders, as well as to the victimization of others who survived.
It’s not surprising the families might prefer a quick resolution over a trial, especially considering how such high profile proceedings will probably play out — or considering how they already have.
In terms of the trial length, right now we’ve only got a big toe dipped into the water: jury selection. But already the 4 local TV stations and Plain Dealer are in full swing: most have full sections of their web site devoted to the case, and many have opened shop on live feed pages with constant updates or special Twitter accounts that regularly fire off details of the courtroom proceedings.
Today, this is the media standard for a big trial, and like most coverage in this vein, someone’s forgotten the difference between detail and nuance. There’s reporting the news, there’s going beyond and capturing the color, and then there’s live bloggin’ the hell out of every single crumb of information out there for the sake of regular updates.
True, jury selection is a boring process and we’ve got airwaves to fill. And yes, if you’re interested in Sowell’s lack of sartorial options or what the media room smells like or how Judge Ambrose uses a laser pointer or how the Fourth Estate kills down time, you’re just a tweet away from the answer. But this kind of coverage is in the neighborhood of what the families are probably trying to avoid with their petition: this trial will be long, it will be drawn out, and it will be picked apart and reported ad nauseum.
That’s just the name of the news game these days, but you can see why the individuals near the tragedy might want to avoid having a microscopic play-by-play kicked about the ether: when we’re actually grinding through a trial and the tweetfeed isn’t filled with banalities but actual details of the crime — bloody crime scene info, loved ones reduced to recovered body parts, replayed last moments — well . . . you see where they’re coming from.