famous trial

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famous trial
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To: Prof. Donsky
From: Keran Peters
Re: Famous Trial
Date: May 2, 2012

One of the nation’s most famous trials was the Case of Sheppard v. Maxwell, 384 U.S. 333 (1966). Give the details of this case, the questions to keep in mind are: did the defendant have a fair first trial? Would the trial have a different outcome in today’s modern society?
On July 4, 1954, Dr. Sheppard wife, Marilyn, was brutally murdered in the bedroom of their home in Bay Village, Ohio, on the shore of Lake Erie. Hours before the murder, Marilyn and Dr. Sheppard hosted a dinner party for a neighborhood friend. After dinner the couple watched a movie with their friends. Just before midnight Dr. Sheppard left his wife and his neighbors watching the rest of his movie. He moved to the daybed in the room, where he falls asleep. The coroner’s report showed that the death of Marilyn accrued between the time of 3:00 and 4:45 a.m. At 6:02 a.m. that morning Dr. Sheppard woke up and found his wife, Marilyn, dead, instead of calling 911; he called his friend Spencer Houk, the Mayor of Bay Village at the time. By 8:00 a.m. the police arrive on the scene. Dr. Sheppard was immediately suspected of murdering his wife. He was taken to a hospital and was treated for injuries to the head and the neck that he got from the struggle with an intruder. Dr. Sheppard was integrated investigating officers by for hours and days by the, but still he did not plead guilty. On August 17, 1954, a grand jury indicted Dr. Sheppard on first degree murder. He was represented by Bill Corrigan and Francis Lee Bailey Jr., commonly referred to as F. Lee Bailey. The prosecutor was John Mahon, which based his case on the coroner suggestions that the mark on Marilyn’s pillow was done with a surgical instrument.

The trial took place in Cleveland before Judge “Edward Blythin”; who denies Dr. Sheppard the motion to change venue, even though the case were over publicize by the media. Newspaper articles emphasized that the evidences collected at the scene of the crime highly incriminates Dr. Sheppard and it points out that there were flaws in his statements. The same time the media was incriminating Dr. Sheppard, He wrote letters and articles to the press stating his innocence. The jurors in the case were constantly exposed to the media. Most of them read the Cleveland papers or had the papers delivered to their homes. They watched or heard all of the broadcasts about the case. Even pictures of jurors deliberating in the jury room appeared in the papers daily. They jurors were allowed to oversee the scene of the crime. Days before the verdict was rendered a new paper showed the jurors posing for photographs. Basically most of the jurors became somewhat of a celebrity during the trial.
On December 21, 1954 The United State District Court of Ohio found the defendant guilty of second degree murder. He sentenced to life in prison. On January 3, 1955, the District court denied the Dr. Sheppard the motion for a new trial, which he believed that numerous errors occurred. Again, the court denied a supplemental motion for a new trial on based on new evidence given by Paul Leland Kirk, a criminologist, who believed that Dr. Sheppard did not killed his wife; he demonstrated that the blood test found in the room did not come from Dr. Sheppard or his wife. While in prison, Dr. Sheppard mother committed suicide, his father died of cancer and his attorney Bill Corrigan also died. After the death his mother Dr. Sheppard wrote a letter stating that “Today my mother took her life as a result of American injustice.”
An appeal was taken to the Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit for writ of habeas corpus for relief from confinement due to the unconstitutionality of trial because of allegedly prejudicial pretrial publicity. In the habeas corpus preceding the court amended some of the constitutional defects and imperfections in trial case. Some accusations were found without merit and the court dismisses them. But the court did look in to the four facts: “(1) newspaper publicity before and during the trial, which did not give Dr. Sheppard a fair trial, (2) the trial judge should have disqualified himself, (3) evidence that Dr. Sheppard had refused to take a lie detector test and that witness had taken such a test was improperly brought before the jury, and (4) the bailiff in charge of the jury after the cause was submitted to improperly allowed individual jurors to make telephone calls to their families.” The Court of Appeal concluded that Dr. Sheppard did not have a fair trial and he was deprived of rights given to him by the United States Constitution. Judge’s O’Sullivan, Phillips, and Edwards, granted bail to Dr. Sheppard and release him from the Ohio State penitentiary.
Once release from prison in July of 1964, Dr. Sheppard got remarried to Ariane Tebbenjohanns, a wealthy Germany woman. Throughout his years in prison, Dr. Sheppard corresponded with Ariane. By May of 1965 a second trial begins but special attention was given to insure the protection of Dr. Sheppard’s constitutional rights. The Supreme Court granted Dr. Sheppard Certiorari. The question to the court was “Whether Dr. Sheppard was deprived of a fair trial in his state of conviction for the second degree murder of his wife because of the trail judge’s failure to protect Dr. Sheppard Sufficiently from the massive, pervasive and prejudicial publicity that attended his prosecution?” the court concluded that Dr. Sheppard did not receive a fair trial consistent with the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and, therefore the judgment of the U.S. District court Ohio such be reversed. Dr. Sheppard was release from prison. In two years he divorced his wife Ariane; the next year he became a professional wrestler, his name stage name was “killer Sheppard”. He got remarried to a Colleen Strickland. At age 46, he died of liver failure.
I have given you the details of the case and the outside focus surrounding the case. Now we can answer the questions. Did the defendant have a fair trial? I will say no. This trial was use to send a message to society. The evidences gather from the crime a reasonable person would believe that Dr. Sheppard killed his wife. Since the Sixth Amendment to the United State Constitution state “all criminal prosecutions, the accused is shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, and by an impartial jury.” It was obvious that Dr. Sheppard did not receive an impartial. The second question, would the outcome of the case be different in today’s society? I say yes. Due to the media circus that surrounding the case, most judges would have allowed the defendant a change of venue to ensure that he had a fair trial. It is curtain that jury today would not be allowed to visit the sense of the crime or read any newspaper article that is pertaining to the case that would compromise their judgment to give the defendant a fair judgment. It is hard to say that if the case was tried today that the outcome of the case would be different, but I am sure that the defendant would not have had the opportunity to get a retrial on the terms that he did not have a first fair trial.


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