CLEVELAND - Cleveland defense attorney Rufus Sims has emerged as one of Cleveland's top lawyers for tough criminal cases.
The 59-year-old attorney recently won what he calls "his most significant" case.
Sims defended 42-year-old Darrell Houston who was cleared of murder and robbery charges following a new trial. Sims had just finished with questioning the only eyewitness in the case when prosecutors asked for all charges to be dismissed.
The eyewitness testified that Houston wasn't the killer.
It's just one of several high-profile cases that have involved Sims over the last 20 years. He now is defending accused serial killer Anthony Sowell.
Sims grew up in Cleveland's Glenville neighborhood, where he ran track in high school. He has been running hard ever since.
He joined the Air Force during the height of the Vietnam War, then returned home and went to law school at Cleveland State's Marshall College of Law at night.
Sims worked as a city of Cleveland meter reader to pay his way through law school and overcame what he called a "serious stuttering problem" to achieve his dream of becoming an attorney.
But it was the Civil Rights era of the 1960s that made a significant impression on Sims.
"I would see Dr. King and civil rights leaders on television and I wanted to be part of change," said Sims.
He remembers one particularly disturbing scene when he and his family returned to Alabama to visit family during the 60s.
"I remember going to the movies in Birmingham. We couldn't sit, we couldn't go to the amusement parks and we when we went to the movies, we had to sit upstairs in the balcony. I remember colored fountains," said Sims.
Sims credits one of his early mentors with giving him the best advice he ever received.
"You know what you can always control," asked Sims. "You can always control how hard you work. Because ultimately, it's not Harvard or Yale that wins. It's the guy who works the hardest."
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