Cleveland man convicted of murder refuses to leave courtroom: ‘They know I didn’t do this’

March 20, 2018

Cleveland man convicted of murder refuses to leave courtroom: ‘They know I didn’t do this’

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- A man launched into a profane tirade in court Tuesday after a judge found him guilty of murder in a deadly 2016 shooting outside a Cleveland bar.

Michael Riley, ignoring pleas from his lawyers and orders from court security to stand up and walk out of the courtroom and return him to the jail, claimed his innocence of the June 2016 killing of Juan Mitchell at the Iron City Cafe.

“What are they going to do beat me up in handcuffs?” Riley said as deputies stood behind the chair where he sat. “They know I didn’t commit this crime.”

Riley’s protests began as soon as Common Pleas Judge Robert McClelland announced that Riley was complicit in the drive-by gunfire from a car in which he was a passenger.

Riley grabbed his head and turned to the table where assistant county prosecutors Kelly Mason and Blaise Thomas.

“You all know I ain’t do this, man,” he said as McClelland continued reading from his verdict.

He then turned to his family and Mitchell’s family in the back of the court and repeated his profession.

As Riley’s family left the courtroom, a woman turned to Mitchell’s family and erupted.

“But they know he didn’t do s--t,” she screamed at the victim’s family before being shooed out of the courtroom by a handful of deputies.

Riley continued his tirade after McClelland left the bench, as he refused to get up from his chair.

His lawyer, Rufus Sims, pleaded with him, and told him that he could appeal his conviction.

“F--k an appeal,” he replied. “I shouldn’t need an appeal in the first place. If they had done their investigation right they would have found out who f----ing did this s--t.”

Riley claimed that prosecutors refused to let him take a lie detector test, the results of which are not admissible as evidence in a criminal trial, and that prosecutors once told an attorney that they only charged Riley because he wouldn’t give up the shooter.

Prosecutors later denied that claim.

Riley eventually gave up his protest and walked out of the courtroom.

Riley waived his right to have a jury decide his case and instead chose to have McClelland hear the evidence and render a verdict. McClelland opened his verdict by calling the killing a “sad and pointless loss of life.”

Mitchell, 24, was the oldest of five kids and worked as a roofer since age 14 to help take care of his family. He was leaving the bar when the gunfire rang out.

McClelland found that prosecutors proved Riley was one of at least three people in the car, but couldn’t prove who actually fired the shots that killed Mitchell and struck another man in the foot as they left the bar.

“All of the individuals in that vehicle are equally and legally responsible for these crimes,” McClelland said. “But only Mr. Riley is before us in this court.”

Murder carries a life sentence with first chance at parole after 15 years. With mandatory gun specifications, Riley is likely to not have a chance at parole until well after 20 years behind bars.

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