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Samuel Sheppard Trials: 1954 and 1966

Morals, Not Murder

Susan Hayes, in her testimony, demurely cataloged a long-running romantic liaison. Asked where the acts of intimacy took place, she replied: "In his car, and in his apartment above the Sheppard clinic.… He said he loved his wife very much but not as a wife. He was thinking of divorce." Other than showing that Sheppard was unfaithful, Hayes' testimony proved nothing. But the damage had been done. Sheppard wound up being tried more for his morals than for any crime. Defense attorney Fred Garmone's final question went some way toward salvaging the loss: "Miss Hayes, during all your activities as a technician at the hospital, and your activities with Dr. Sheppard, were you always aware that he was a married man?"

"Yes," she whispered.

"That's all," Garmone said.

Arguably the most potent prosecution witness was Judge Blythin. His antipathy toward the defendant was plain and unvarnished. Early in the trial he had remarked to Dorothy Kilgallen: "Sheppard is as guilty as hell," and throughout the proceedings he had hectored and hamstrung the defense at every turn. Such an attitude on the bench ensured that Sheppard's last chance of receiving a fair trial evaporated. His own appearance on the stand was largely irrelevant. He performed well, but not well enough to overcome the atmosphere in court.

Jury deliberations lasted four days and resulted in a verdict of guilty to second-degree murder. (A rumor that some jurors were unwilling to commit Sheppard to the electric chair and might therefore acquit him, had forced Judge Blythin to dangle the second-degree carrot in front of them, and they'd gobbled it up greedily.) Blythin pronounced sentence: "It is now the judgment of this court that you be taken to the Ohio Penitentiary, there to remain for the rest of your natural life."

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1954 to 1962Samuel Sheppard Trials: 1954 and 1966 - The Carnival Begins, Morals, Not Murder, A Second Chance, Suggestions For Further Reading