Richard Poplawski has some nerve. The accused killer of three Pittsburgh police officers in Stanton Heights in April told a Post-Gazette reporter Monday that he is being treated like a guilty man at Allegheny County Jail.
"I want the community to know what an individual may be faced with if they find themselves faced with some serious charges," he said to Sadie Gurman over the phone. "I want to improve my condition down here."
Mr. Poplawski’s complaints ranged from the trivial (the guards call him names) to the annoying (he has "undergone psychological abuse, egregious verbal harassment and humiliation"). Though he has yet to receive a full psychiatric evaluation, the defendant suspects he is mentally ill.
Among his other gripes is the denial of access to religious services, social services, legal counsel, the gym, the library and the commissary. We believe him when he says that being locked in an 8-by-10 cell 23 hours a day is no picnic. But what can a triple-homicide defendant expect?
Warden Ramon Rustin did not respond to the Post-Gazette on Mr. Poplawski’s claims, citing the gag order on the case from Judge Jeffrey Manning. It’s a safe bet Mr. Rustin would say the inmate’s rights are being respected anyway.
For his own safety, the accused gunman must be segregated from other prisoners. It would be folly to pretend he’s just an ordinary county inmate.
To his credit, Mr. Poplawski describes the medical staff overseeing his recovery from gunshot wounds as "worthy of high praise" and the two guards whose job it is to shadow him "consummate professionals." But the fact that he doesn’t have the privacy he craves or access to life’s sweet amenities only goes with the territory.
It also isn’t smart to announce that "no man who is a sinner himself is worthy to judge me." Given the tragedy he is charged with perpetrating, there will be no shortage of would-be jurors, sinners or not, eager to judge him. The only challenge to the court is finding 12 who are impartial.