Saturday, July 29, 2000

Sheppard son keeps up legal fight to clear name

By John Affleck
The Associated Press

        CLEVELAND — The son of Dr. Sam Sheppard on Friday appealed the verdict in his recent wrongful-imprisonment lawsuit, the first step in trying to overturn a jury's ruling that his father could not be cleared of his mother's 1954 beating death.

        An attorney for Sam Reese Sheppard, the doctor's son, filed an appeal notice late Friday afternoon in a state appeals court. A detailed legal brief with the Sheppard team's arguments for a new wrongful imprisonment trial will follow in the next few months.

        A trial earlier this year in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court took more than three months. Sam Reese Sheppard claimed his father was wrongfully imprisoned for a decade in his mother's slaying early on July 4, 1954, at the family's home on Lake Erie.

        After three hours of deliberations, the jury ruled the doctor could not be proven innocent by the greater weight of the evidence — the legal standard in Ohio wrongful imprisonment cases. The jury was not asked to decide whether the doctor was guilty of Marilyn Sheppard's murder.

        Sam Reese Sheppard, 53, has worked for 11 years to win exoneration for his father and to use his family's experience to draw attention to what he sees as a flawed justice system in the United States. He said he was drained by the wrongful-imprisonment trial but felt compelled to file an appeal.

        “The truth is the truth and it needs to be aired,” Mr. Sheppard said from Oakland, Calif., where he lives. “We're doing this as a matter of honor.”

        County Prosecutor William Mason, leader of the state's defense team at the wrongful-imprisonment trial, is on vacation and could not be reached for comment.


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