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Cleveland State Law Review


Sheppard Case, jury verdicts, law and technology


As the Ohio Supreme Court noted almost one-half century ago, the Sheppard case had it all—“Murder, mystery, society, sex[,] and suspense were combined in this case in such a manner as to intrigue and captivate the public fancy to a degree perhaps unparalleled in recent annals.” But apart from the tantalizingly lurid details of the murder of Marilyn Sheppard and the curious way the case became a national cause celebre, the Sheppard case is of historical significance and academic interest because of the many important and ground-breaking aspects of the case. In actuality, there have been three (and perhaps four) Sheppard cases—the original prosecution of Dr. Sheppard for the murder of his wife resulting in his conviction, and the related federal habeas corpus action, which led to the United States Supreme Court overturning Sheppard's conviction because of the extensive pretrial publicity surrounding the case. The second case was Sheppard's retrial for murder in which he was acquitted. The third trial was the suit by Dr. Sheppard's son, Sam Reese Sheppard, against the state of Ohio for wrongful conviction and seeking reparations for the time that his father spent in prison before the United State Supreme Court overturned his conviction. The third case resulted in a verdict for the state. In February 2002, the Ohio Court of Appeals denied an appeal; in August, 2002, the Ohio Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal from the appellate court's decision. U.S. District Court Judge Robertson provides a valuable summary of the three cases in the first portion of his remarks, which are entitled A Distant Mirror: The Sheppard Case from the Next Millennium.