Monday, May 01, 2000

Sheppard ruling challenged


Son presses case for innocence

By
The Associated Press

        CLEVELAND — The jury verdict rejecting the claim that Dr. Sam Sheppard was wrongfully imprisoned for killing his wife in 1954 will be challenged, the Sheppard family's lead attorney said Sunday night.

        “People from all around the country have questioned this verdict,” said Terry Gilbert, who represented Mr. Sheppard's son, Sam Reese Sheppard, in the unsuccessful civil lawsuit against the state.

        Mr. Gilbert said he would file a motion on Monday asking Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Judge Ron Suster to set aside the verdict or, as an alternative, grant another trial. Judge Suster presided at the civil trial.

        “I frankly feel I owe it to history, because people are going to be looking at this case for generations to come,” Mr. Gilbert said.

        Cuyahoga County Prosecutor William Mason said the Sheppard side had gotten a fair chance to present its case and predicted the verdict would stand. “I think we've tried this case for the last time,” Mr. Mason said.

        WKYC-TV in Cleveland reported on Friday that Mr. Gilbert was preparing to challenge to the verdict.

        On April 12, a jury unanimously rejected the wrongful imprisonment claim filed in the case that helped inspire The Fugitive” TV series.

        Mr. Gilbert said the verdict would be challenged on several issues, including his claims that the jury, which deliberated three hours, ruled too hastily, and that the complicated case should have been heard by a judge, not a jury.

        Mr. Gilbert indicated the six-page “post-verdict motion” would be less costly than an actual appeal. No decision has been made on an appeal of the verdict, Mr. Gilbert said.

        Marilyn Sheppard was bludgeoned in her bed early on July 4, 1954, at the family's suburban Bay Village home on Lake Erie. Her son, then just 7 years old, slept through the killing in his room nearby.

        Dr. Sheppard claimed he was sleeping downstairs at the time of the murder and awoke to his wife's cries. He ran to help her but was knocked unconscious by a bushy-haired intruder, he said.

        Mr. Sheppard was convicted and spent 10 years in prison. The U.S. Supreme Court overturned the verdict, ruling the trial judge failed to shield jurors and witnesses from the crush of negative media reports about the doctor.

        Mr. Sheppard was acquitted at a retrial in 1966. He died four years later.

       



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