Judge Robert Ruehlman in Cincinnati believes that almost everyone deserves a second chance, says the Cincinnati Enquirer. “Only about 10 percent of the people who come before you are really bad guys you need to take off the streets and put away,” Ruehlman said. “The other 90 percent are just kind of pathetic, people who did something wrong but aren’t necessarily terrible themselves. They’re the ones you try to keep out of serious trouble and help out by giving a second chance.” Ruehlman himself was an incessant prankster and frequent truant as a youth.
Before becoming a judge in 1987, he spent a decade in the county prosecutor’s office, where his cases included that of Michael Beuke, the “mad hitchhiker” sentenced to death in 1983 for the murder of a driver he shot while hitchhiking. Beuke was executed in May. Carl Lewis, president of the Cincinnati Defense Lawyers Association, has seen Ruehlman cut countless defendants breaks, seeking justifications for parole and treatment over jail. “Not only does he always call it right down the middle, but he really looks at the individual,” Lewis said. “He does his best to find redeeming qualities.” His most rewarding cases, Ruehlman says, are not high-profile trials, but ones in which defendants given a break turn their lives around.