Sam Sheppard

From Ohio History Central

Jump to: navigation, search

Dr. Samuel Sheppard was a physician and the center of one of the best-known murder cases in American history.

Samuel Holmes Sheppard was born in 1923. He studied medicine and eventually became an osteopathic physician. Sheppard was a resident of Bay Village, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland. On July 3, 1954, Marilyn Sheppard, Sam Sheppard's wife, was killed. Sam Sheppard claimed that a bushy-haired intruder knocked him out and then killed his wife. Sheppard was arrested and charged with the murder of his wife.

Sheppard's trial occurred in the autumn of 1954. Prosecutors contended that Sheppard killed his wife so that he could marry a nurse with whom he had been having an affair. Sheppard's attorney did not deny the affair, but he reminded the jury that Sheppard suffered several broken teeth and lacerations on his back and neck. The attorney argued that these injuries supported Sheppard's claim that an intruder knocked him unconscious before killing Marilyn Sheppard. The defense attorney also noted that the crime scene was extremely bloody, but police officers found only a small droplet of blood on Sam Sheppard's pants. Despite the defense's efforts, the jury convicted Sheppard of second-degree murder and the doctor was sentenced to life in prison.

For ten years, Sheppard was incarcerated while his attorneys appealed the verdict. In 1964, the United States Supreme Court ruled that Sheppard did not receive a fair trial, partly due to the circus-like atmosphere that surrounded the case. Reporters from across the United States attended the original trial. The judge in the initial case did not sequester the jury and did not instruct the jurors to ignore news reports of the trial. The Supreme Court granted Sheppard a new trial. At this trial, the jury found Sheppard innocent of all charges.

Sheppard returned to his medical practice, but he left medicine after a deceased patient's family sued him for medical malpractice. Sheppard briefly worked as a professional wrestler. He died on April 6, 1970.

Since Sheppard's death, his son, Samuel Reese Sheppard, has worked to end any doubts about his father's innocence. He had Marilyn Sheppard's body disinterred and another autopsy performed.

See Also