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Sam Sheppard

A Promising Future, Independence Day, Character Assassination, F. Lee Bailey, An Acquittal

Born December 23, 1923 (Cleveland, Ohio)

Died April 6, 1970 (Columbus, Ohio)

Accused murderer, physician

In 1954 Dr. Sam Sheppard was accused of the brutal murder of his wife Marilyn at their home in Cleveland, Ohio. Before the sensational Sheppard criminal case was over, a landmark Supreme Court ruling would be handed down on the widely debated conflict between freedom of the press and a defendant's right to a fair trial. The decision set specific guide-lines for criminal trial court judges to follow in an effort to protect jurors from too much publicity.

"I couldn't kill a squirrel or a rabbit much less someone I loved."

American criminal law operates on the assumption that someone is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. The news media, however, assumed the role of judge and jury during the investigation and subsequent trial of Dr. Sam Sheppard in 1954. He was essentially condemned in the court of public opinion before he went to trial. A review by the Supreme Court in 1966 ruled that Sheppard did not receive a fail trial and he was ultimately cleared of the crime. His story inspired a highly popular television series and a Hollywood movie, both known as The Fugitive.

Dr. Sam Sheppard. (AP/Wide World Photos)

For More Information


Cooper, Cynthia L., and Sam Reese Sheppard. Mockery of Justice: The True Story of the Sheppard Murder Case. Boston, MA: Northeastern University Press, 1995.

Hixson, Walter L. Murder, Culture, and Injustice: Four Sensational Cases in American History. Akron, OH: University of Akron Press, 2001.

Neff, James. The Wrong Man. New York: Random House, 2001.

Web Sites

"F. Lee Bailey Biography." University of Missouri. http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/Simpson/Bailey.htm (accessed on August 15, 2004).

Sheppard v. Maxwell: U.S. Supreme Court. Sam Reese Sheppard: Seeking the Truth. http://www.samreesesheppard.org/shepvsmax.html (accessed on August 15, 2004).

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationCrime and Criminal Law