Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Interview of Gregg McCrary

Larger than Life

Bill Mason
Bill Mason
In 2003, Bill Mason published his own version of the case with co-writer Jack DiPisario, Dr. Sam Sheppard on Trial: The Prosecutors and Marilyn Sheppard.  They offer a step-by-step account, along with supporting documents, of how they showed that Terry Gilberts defense had no solid basis in fact.  Included is the line-by-line cross-examination of Sam Sheppards original testimony.   McCrary has read this and endorses it as an accurate rendering of what he observed.

Dr. Sam Sheppard on Trial
Dr. Sam Sheppard on Trial
Nevertheless, he believes that even the results of this trial will not close the case.  There are still people who wont want to believe that Sam did it.  Theyll hook onto any other suspect who comes alonganybody but Sam.  This is a case that will never be resolved to everyones satisfaction, because theres always going to be some ambiguity.  For example, some people put a lot of stock into the evidence of a pry mark on the cellar, but the problem with that theory is that its just a root cellar.  It doesnt go upstairs.

What makes a case like this endure is a confluence of things: the fact that it was taken to the Supreme Court, and the legal community still cites it when talking about prejudicial publicity.   It involved colorful characters like F. Lee Bailey, who fresh out of law school picked up the case.  Hes a larger-than-life character attached to it.  Then youve got the popular television series, The Fugitive, that was spun off it.  Add to that the plethora of books about it.  But also, everyone loves a mysteryis there really some bushy-haired stranger?  Its a case about the boogey man.

Were back to the idea that we want murderers to be monsters.  Its a cultural bias.  The person who would bludgeon Marilyn to death in such a brutal manner must be a monster.  Were uncomfortable with the idea that it could be a young, handsome doctor.  That discomfort fuels the fire in the hunt for the true offender.  Then you have Sam Reese Sheppard beating the drum about this for a long period of time.  Its not going away.

But the courts are making it difficult for him to continue to use legal channels.  On February 2002, a three-judge panel, the Eighth District Court of Appeals in Ohio, rejected Gilberts appeal of the verdict from the civil trial.  They noted that the case should never have gone to trial because only the person who was incarcerated can file a wrongful imprisonment suit, and that right dies with the person.  In other words, there was no legal foundation for the case.  Gilbert then appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court, and in August 2002, they issued a one-sentence ruling, refusing to hear the appeal.  The fat lady has sung on this one.  Its over.

Personally, I dont know of any other logical conclusion that anyone could come to from the totality of these facts and circumstances, but that Sam Sheppard murdered his wife.  You can always find some doubt in any case, but in my mind this one is beyond a reasonable doubt.

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