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Sheppards Challenging Verdict

May 1, 2000

CLEVELAND (AP) _ The jury verdict rejecting the claim that Dr. Sam Sheppard was wrongfully imprisoned for killing his wife in 1954 will be challenged, the Sheppard family’s lead attorney said Sunday night.

On April 12, a jury unanimously rejected the wrongful imprisonment claim filed in the case that helped inspire ``The Fugitive″ TV series.

``People from all around the country have questioned this verdict,″ said Terry Gilbert, who represented Sheppard’s son, Sam Reese Sheppard, in the unsuccessful civil lawsuit against the state.

Gilbert said he would file a motion on Monday asking Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Judge Ron Suster to set aside the verdict or, as an alternative, grant another trial. Suster presided at the civil trial.

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor William Mason said the Sheppard side had gotten a fair chance to present its case and predicted the verdict would stand. ``I think we’ve tried this case for the last time,″ Mason said.

Gilbert said the verdict would be challenged on several issues, including Gilbert’s claims that the jury, which deliberated three hours, ruled too hastily, and that the complicated case should have been heard by a judge, not a jury.

Marilyn Sheppard was bludgeoned in her bed early on July 4, 1954, at the family’s suburban Bay Village home on Lake Erie. Her son, then just 7 years old, slept through the killing in his room nearby.

Sheppard claimed he was sleeping downstairs at the time of the murder and awoke to his wife’s cries. He ran to help her but was knocked unconscious by a bushy-haired intruder, he said.

Sheppard was convicted and spent 10 years in prison. The U.S. Supreme Court overturned the verdict, ruling the trial judge failed to shield jurors and witnesses from the crush of negative media reports about the doctor.

Sheppard was acquitted at a retrial in 1966. He died four years later.

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