Glimpse of the Cuyahoga Prosecutor’s office in 1954 during time of the first Sam Sheppard trial. Prosecutor Frank T. Cullitan is seated in front row to the far right and standing behind him to the far right is Assistant Prosecutor Thomas J. Parrino. Merle McCurdy is located on the far left.
Long-time attorney, Gerald S. Gold conveyed that both McCurdy and Parrino were the two best trial attorneys in Cleveland in the Prosecutor’s office at that time. They were so good, that Parrino was put in charge of handling the infamous Dr. Sam Sheppard case. Merle, however, as an African American, was not permitted to participate in the Sheppard case.
While legal scholars of the time state that the Prosecutor’s Office in Cleveland was not an “apartheid-type” system, concerns were raised that white jurors would have difficulty convicting a white defendant prosecuted by an African American. Likewise, similar concerns existed with white prosecutors seeking to try cases at that time involving an African American defendant. This concern would have been magnified with a high-profile case involving Dr. Sheppard.
Gold, G.S. by Dana, R. (Personal Communication, April 23, 2015).
Sheehan, Cuyahoga Common Pleas Judge B. et al. by Dana, R. (Personal Communication, April 2015).