Opening Statements: Setting the Stage
After years of mounting anticipation and months of intense preparation, the curtain was about to go up on the trial stage of this epic case. On January 31 Mason woke up to a snowstorm. Ready earlier than usual, he paced about the house as he reviewed his notes and contemplated the entirety of his trial approach.
On his treacherous drive to the Justice Center, he found himself trailing the largest communications truck he had ever seen. It was a long white vehicle with a large satellite dish attached to its roof. As he suspected would happen, he followed the ungainly vehicle all the way to his downtown Cleveland exit. As he drove down the city streets to the Justice Center he saw another large communications truck at the light ahead of him and a third being unloaded in front of the courthouse. Heading into his underground parking lot, he passed a large double trailer that was being assembled into an outdoor studio by Court TV. Mason was somewhat surprised that even preliminary trial proceedings would generate such impressive attention, but he accepted it as a sign of things to come and braced himself for the months ahead.
The preceding few days in Judge Suster's courtroom had been devoted to courtroom fencing over evidentiary arguments and the selection of the jury. Judge Suster had made a number of important rulings. He held that the State could not introduce into evidence a number of statements by witnesses who would recount conversations that confirmed Sam's infidelities and dissatisfaction with his marriage. This knocked Mason offstride temporarily. Judge Suster also ruled that the Sheppard attorneys could not refer to Eberling's past conviction and other accusations that he committed other murders for which he was never charged. This meant that Mason would not have to conduct a dual trial strategy that might