Some time after midnight on July 4, 1954, Marilyn Sheppard was murdered in her Bay Village home. The home overlooked Lake Erie and had beach access. She was pregnant at the time. Her husband was an osteopathic doctor who worked at his family's hospital. They had a seven year old son, Sam Sheppard, Jr., who went by Chip. The husband, Sam Sheppard, claimed to have seen a "bushy haired" man, whom he tried to unsuccessfully fight off, and eventually passed out on the Lake Erie beach, after receiving a nasty blow to the head. At 5:45 am he called his neighbor, Bay Village Mayor Spencer Houk, stating that someone had killed Marilyn.
Studying the crime scene, the coroner and some of the police had problems believing Sam Sheppard's story. They did not do their best work: they did not try to determine if Marilyn Sheppard had been raped, they let the media traipse through the crime scene, and they may have come to their conclusion before they processed all the evidence.
The local media had a field day with the story. It was a slow summer for news, and the murder of a pretty doctor's wife held the public's attention. The media jumped to the same conclusion as the police did. Bay Village was a small suburb and needed the help of the Cleveland police to help with the case. The pressure by the media and the public to arrest Sheppard was high. In late July, Coroner Gerber held an inquest at Normandy Elementary School in Bay Village to get some answers. He did this after a headline in a local paper appeared, demanding to know why "someone was getting away with murder."
During the inquest when Sheppard was questioned, he denied having an affair or ever thinking of divorcing his wife. This was untrue. During the early part of their marriage, Sam had thought of it. He also had a few affairs. The most notable one was with Susan Hayes, a lab technician from Cleveland who worked at the hospital. She later moved to Los Angeles. She was brought back and questioned about her relationship with Sheppard. Many people felt that this was the damning evidence to prove that Sheppard killed his wife.
Shortly after the inquest, Sheppard was arrested for the murder of his wife. He hired attorney Will Corrigan and assembled a defense team which included Fred Garmone, Arthur Petersilge (who was already the family's attorney before the murder), and Will Corrigan Jr. who had recently graduated from law school.
The prosecution team consisted of Saul Danaceau, John Mahon, Frank Cullitan, and Thomas Parrino. Notably, Mahon was also trying to get elected to be a judge in November 1954. Judge Edward Blythin presided over the court. He told Dorothy Kilgallen, a famous journalist who covered the case, that he was certain of Sheppard's guilt before the case started.
Jurors were selected in October 1954. Their names, photos, and addresses were printed in the local newspapers. The jurors received mail from people, telling them to convict Sheppard.
The trial started in late October. The media had unprecedented access to the case. People lined up to get a seat in the courtroom. Sheppard initially felt that he would be found innocent. His extended family was extremely supportive. His two brothers and father came to court every day, alternating their times so that someone could be at the hospital. His sister-in-laws came every day. Marilyn's family believed he was innocent as well.
The trial went until mid-December. On December 21, 1954, the jury convicted Sheppard. Sheppard received a sentence of life in prison. Shortly after the conviction, his mother committed suicide, his father died of a bleeding ulcer, and Marilyn's father committed suicide in 1963. Chip Sheppard went to live with Steve and Betty Sheppard.
Corrigan died in 1961. F. Lee Bailey took over as counsel. In 1964, after several attempts to appeal the decision, one was granted. In 1966, the Supreme Court heard the case Sheppard v. Maxwell, and came to the conclusion that Sheppard was denied due process and had an unfair trial, mainly due to the media circus that permeated the original trial. The court also found that blame lay with Judge Blythin who had refused to sequester the jurors and did not tell them to disregard the media.
Sheppard was released and married, Ariane Tebbenjohanns, a German divorcee who had corresponded with Sheppard while he was in prison. He went back to the hospital, but was sued for malpractice after two patients died. He tried to make it on the wrestling circuit, going by Sam "The Killer" Sheppard. He later divorced Tebbenjohanns, and married the daughter of his wrestling partner, Colleen Strickland who was 20. Sam was penniless and an alcoholic. In 1970, he died of liver failure.
His son has made many efforts to clear his father's name. During the 1990s, he tried to get prosecutor Stephanie Tubbs-Jones to reopen the case. She refused. In 1999, he filed suit against the state of Ohio, where he tried to have his father declared innocent, instead of not guilty. He also filed charges of wrongful imprisonment. The prosecution argued that Sheppard committed the crime. The defense tried to highlight Richard Eberling, a man who had washed the windows at the Sheppard's home days before the murder, and had been convicted of other murders. Susan Hayes, now a grandmother, was brought back to testify. The bodies of both Marilyn and Sam Sheppard were exhumed. Sheppard was found not guilty, but was not found to be wrongfully imprisoned.
Lauren Kutik and Jacqueline McCloud
In May 1957, Cleveland Police forced entry into Dollree Mapp's home without a warrant. They were looking for a bombing suspect and during the search found a gun, some policy (i.e., gambling) paraphernalia, and obscene literature. Though Mapp claimed that the illegal materials belonged to a former boarder, she was arrested on a felony charge for possession of obscene materials under the Ohio Revised Code section then in effect, which stated: "No person shall knowingly have in his possession or under his control an obscene, lewd or lascivious book, magazine, pamphlet, paper, writing, advertisement, circular, print, picture, photograph, or pictures and stories of immoral deeds, lust or crime." OHIO REV. CODE §§2905.34-.35 (Supp. 1958).
The course of Mapp's defense, which successfully made its way to the Supreme Court of the United States, is notable because it changed as the case progressed. What began as a case about First Amendment rights, i.e. freedom of speech, became a case about Fourteenth Amendment rights, dealing with both the due process of law and equal protection. Yet, the case was ultimately resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court based on Fourth Amendment rights. The Court held that evidence obtained without a warrant could not be admitted at criminal proceedings.
Jacquelyn McCloud and Kevin Garewal
The story of the desegregation of the Cleveland Public Schools spans decades. The first rumblings of discontent were voiced by African American parents in the late 1950s. The angry shouts of protesters reverberated through the city streets during the early 1960s. Against this backdrop, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) voiced its objections to the educational system in Cleveland, suing the Cleveland Public Schools and the State of Ohio in 1973. In Reed v. Rhodes, Case No. C73-1300, the plaintiffs alleged that the defendants intentionally created and maintained a segregated school system based on race in violation of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution.
The controversy surrounding the racial segregation of the school system divided the community and resulted in an even more controversial decision by Judge Frank J. Battisti of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. On August 31, 1976, Judge Battisti held that the State of Ohio and the Cleveland Public Schools intentionally created and maintained a segregated school system, which violated the 14th Amendment rights of Robert Anthony Reed III and other similarly situated Cleveland school children. Reed v. Rhodes, 422 F. Supp 708, 796-97 (N.D. Ohio 1976), aff'd, 662 F.2d 1219 (6th Cir. 1981). In response to Judge Battisti's opinion, the Cleveland Public Schools implemented an integration program, which included cross-town busing and academic improvement requirements. The Cleveland Public Schools spent the 1980s and 1990s trying to achieve racial integration.
On March 27, 1998, Chief Judge White brought the Cleveland school desegregation story to its end: "[A]ll vestiges of past discrimination and segregation have been eliminated to the extent practicable; and Defendants have demonstrated a good faith commitment to their constitutional obligations." Reed v. Rhodes, 1 F. Supp.2d 705, 757 (N.D. Ohio 1998). The Cleveland Public Schools remained under court supervision until July 1, 2000.
Reed v. Rhodes was a victory for the NAACP and the desegregation movement in the United States, but the impact of Judge Battisti's decision on Cleveland and the public schools sparked a debate that can still be heard today.
The story of Jacob Winkelman, a six-year old autistic child from Parma, a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, sparked a national debate about special needs education in the United States. The issue was whether parents could represent the interests of their special needs child in court without being represented by an attorney.
The controversy surrounding Jacob’s special education needs resulted in a landmark decision by the United States Supreme Court. On May 21, 2007, the United States Supreme Court answered affirmatively, resolving a three-way split in the United States Court of Appeals. This case was a major victory for the special education needs movement in the United States and has great significance because it ensures that children with disabilities have a voice that will be heard by the courts.
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