January 16, 1999, was a typically dreary Saturday in Cleveland. The streets were lined with mountains of plowed snow that had fallen in the first blizzard of the winter, and new snow fell as buses, vans, and cars filled the parking lot of the Cleveland Convention Center. Inside, the large convention room was packed with thousands of Democratic Party delegates and interested parties who had gathered to choose a new Cuyahoga County prosecutor. Speeches and debates, music and chanting rang throughout the hall, and the tension of lobbying and negotiation was palpable. It was not until after a full morning of political maneuvering that party chairman Jimmy DiMora announced in a booming voice, “The next prosecutor for Cuyahoga County and the State of Ohio is William D. Mason!”
Bill Mason, thirty-nine years old, had gained a reputation as a young, energetic lawyer who would work relentlessly to achieve his goals. A thrilled and emotional Mason addressed the convention, thanking all in attendance for entrusting him with this opportunity and pledging that he would conduct his responsibilities in a professional and just manner. These words would take on enhanced meaning in the months ahead. At this time Mason did not know that lurking in the background of this celebratory occasion was the specter of a highly controversial decades- old murder case. Unwittingly, the newly elected Bill Mason had just become a pivotal figure in The State of Ohio v. Dr. Sam Sheppard, for Cuyahoga County was the site of one of the most controversial, enduring, and widely publicized murder cases in the history of the United States.
Cuyahoga County, which includes the City of Cleveland, is the largest county in Ohio, with a population of more than 1.5 million. On the shore of Lake Erie, the county is probably best known for its long, cold winters and as the home of rock and roll, the Cleveland Browns, and the Cleveland Indians. But it has also received attention for its recent economic recovery, which is attributed to the community and its leadership, who, true to their blue-collar heritage, worked hard to turn the city around.