The three Sheppard cases, spread over almost half a century, serve as a point of departure to explore how the multiple forces of law, science, and the media have interacted in criminal trials and in later challenges to the reliability of those trials. The Sheppard cases have resulted in five enduring legacies. Perhaps the most obvious legacy of the Sheppard cases is the new law the case made when it was heard by the United States Supreme Court on a federal habeas corpus appeal. In Sheppard v. Maxwell, the Court created a new legal standard regarding the effects of pretrial publicity, noting that the atmosphere surrounding Dr. Sam Sheppard's original trial was like a Roman holiday. The second major legacy of the Sheppard case is the use of scientific evidence in criminal cases. The Sheppard cases are illustrative of a third trend, the use of DNA evidence to convict as well as exonerate the falsely accused or convicted. The Sheppard case raises an important fourth issue, the role of the trial attorney in criminal cases. The fifth enduring legacy of the Sheppard case is the lesson it provides for all about the awful human toll that the criminal justice system exacts on persons when it fails to function properly.


Symposium: Toward More Reliable Jury Verdicts - Law, Technology, and Media Development since the Trials of Dr. Sam Sheppard