Document Type

Sheppard v. Maxwell, United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Civ. No. 6640


June 3, 1964

Case Title

Sheppard v. Maxwell

Box Number


Item Number



Respondents Brief, due process, publicity, fair trial


This Brief outlines the Respondents (State/Prosecution) side of legal support for why the Sheppard Case was conducted in a partial and Constitutional manner. The two questions they present include: DID THE PUBLICITY RELATING TO THE PETITIONER DEPRIVE HIM OF A FAIR TRIAL? and WAS THE PETITIONER DEPRIVED OF A "PUBLIC" TRIAL?

Using precedent and examination of the Irvin v. Dowd, 366 U.S. 717, 723 (1961) case and the case of Rideau v. State of Louisiana, 373 U.S. 723, 83 S. Ct., 1417, 10 L. Ed. 2d, 663 (1963), (perhaps the two cases most favorable to petitioner's position) reveal where the United States Supreme Court has drawn the boundaries for what constitutes a fair trial in the face of adverse publicity.

These cases with such a pattern of facts reveals situations that caused the United States Supreme Court to reverse both convictions. Although slightly similar to Sheppard, various factors suggest that the deep-rooted prejudice that existed in the Rideau and Irvin cases did not exist in the Sheppard case–as noted by respondents.

After an examination of the relevant factors surrounding the Sheppard jury and the publicity in the community, respondent finds that it can merely repeat the words of the United States District Court in United States v. Kahaner, 204 F. Supp. 921, 924 (1962): "Publicity, in and of itself does not, foreclose a fair trial. The courts do not function in a vacuum and jurors are not required to be totally ignorant of what goes on about them. * * * "

In considering the mentioned complaints it is necessary to keep in mind the following legal principles: The mere fact of unfavorable publicity does not of itself raise a presumption of prejudice but prejudice must manifest itself so as to corrupt due process. Dennis v. U.S., 302 F 2d 5 (1962). Mere exposure to adverse publicity does not necessarily result in bias, prejudgment or other disqualification. U.S. v. Applegarth, 206 F. Supp. 686, 687 (1962). The mere fact that a juror has read newspaper accounts relative to a criminal charge is not in itself sufficient grounds for excusing a jury. Blumenfield v. U.S, 284 F. 2d 46, 51 (1960).

Also, regarding the petitioner's (Sheppard) assertion that the action of the trial court in setting aside the major portion of the courtroom for representatives of the news media was violative of his right to a "public" trial. Respondent contends that the trial court was justified in its actions.

Equally, the respondent is aware that the petitioner is going to present statements to the effect that the trial judge expressed his belief in the guilt of the petitioner before the trial commenced. Accordingly, respondent invites the Court's attention to the recent case of Hendrix v. Hand, 312 F. 2d (1962) wherein the Court of Appeals, in a habeas corpus proceeding held that the mere fact that a trial judge in a state criminal prosecution signed a statement in advance of trial relating to the judge's belief that the defendant was guilty of the crime charged did not establish any infringement of defendant's right to a fair trial.



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