F. Lee Bailey took over the case of Sam Sheppard after six years of unsuccessful appeals. There were several appeals that were rejected, but a writ of habeas corpus was finally granted. They were ordered to either free him or give him a new trial. The U.S. Supreme Court reviewed the case. They said that his conviction was the effect of a trial in which he didn’t get due process.
The decision found, among other things, that a “carnival atmosphere” contributed to the trial outcome, and that the judge said that he wouldn’t sequester the jury, and he had not told the jury to disregard or ignore media reports of the case, and the judge had also told a news reported that he was definitely guilty, and that could have biased the outcome of the jury.
At his second arraignment, he noisily said “not guilty” with his lawyer, F. Lee Bailey, standing at his side. A “not guilty” plea was returned a couple of months later. This trial was pivotal for launching the career of F. Lee Bailey. He was given a new status as a criminal defense lawyer.
This case was the first of a series of high-profile cases for F. Lee Bailey, and he went on to do several high-publicity cases later on in his career, not just in the next five years after this trial, but all throughout his career which spanned several decades.
F. Lee Bailey pulled off a hard sell with the Sam Sheppard case, and firmly entrenched himself with the reputation of being one of the best criminal defense lawyers in the nation, at that time.
F. Lee Bailey said that Sam Sheppard was the basis for the “The Fugitive” television series. Mr. Bailey said that he was a Harrison Ford fan, and he said he’s not sure if he’ll go out and see the film though. He argued the case all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court. It was such a high-profile case that it inspired a nationally popular Hollywood movie with an A-list action star.
F. Lee Bailey said that the case was probably the greatest whodunit in the history of the country.
Mr. Bailey said that he was convinced that there was a bushy-headed man, just like Sam Sheppard said. Mr. Sheppard had said that he saw a man with bushy hair leaving his house the night that his wife was murdered. Unfortunately for Mr. Sheppard, the jury didn’t believe him the first time, and he spent ten years in prison. Luckily for Mr. Sheppard, there was a lawyer with the caliber, skill, and intellectual power of F. Lee Bailey to get him off on a second trial. It was hard for Mr. Sheppard to get through those ten years in prison, but he had a productive life after that.
Sam Sheppard was a physician who was found guilty, and later cleared of killing his wife. It was a controversial murder trial, and it drew nationwide, widespread attention from the news media, and it created what the Supreme Court referred to as a “carnival atmosphere”. He was first convicted in 1954 of murdering his wife, who was pregnant, and he spent almost ten years in prison before there was a retrial that was ordered. He was acquitted in a new trial in 1966. In 2000, his son sued Ohio for his wrongful imprisonment. After a trial that lasted ten weeks, a civil jury came up with a verdict that was unanimous that he didn’t provide evidence that his father had had wrongful imprisonment.
Sheppard had been convicted of killing his girlfriend, who was pregnant. He claimed his wife was killed by a man with bushy hair who attacked him too and knocked him completely unconscious. Unfortunately, his story didn’t fly with the first jury. He was sentenced to ten years in prison. He always maintained his innocence until his acquittal, and his defense attorney was F. Lee Bailey.
Sheppard went to trial in 1954. The case was memorable for its massive publicity, and the Supreme Court would later refer to it as a “carnival atmosphere”. Many people have compared it to the O.J. Simpson case in terms of its publicity and how lurid the details were of the press coverage
Some news media and newspapers in Ohio were considered to show bias against Sheppard and accused of making incendiary and inflammatory statements which could have biased the jury. They instantly labeled Sheppard as the single viable suspect.
Because the trial was so high-profile, it proved to be an extraordinary help to the lead prosecutor, and he was running for a seat on the Court of Common Pleas when the trial started. He eventually won his seat, and he had it until his death in 1962.
Prosecutors discovered during their investigation and showed at trial that he had definitely carried out a three-year extramarital affair, who was a nurse at the hospital where Sheppard worked. The prosecution said that the affair was the reason he killed his wife brutally.
The defense strategy was to argue that Sheppard has several injuries, and that those injuries were caused by the intruder. A neurosurgeon examined him and found several injuries on his body. The doctor said it was impossible to simulate or fake the reflex responses which were missing.
The defense went on to argue that the blood nature of the crime scene was incongruent with the small amount of blood on Sheppard. Two of her teeth were broken too, and there were no bite wounds on Sheppard, which suggested that she had bit someone else. Others have pointed out that the missing teeth are evidence of the serious beating that she would have taken in the mouth and the face. Another criminologist pointed out that if Sheppard had broken her teeth, the teeth would have ended up in her mouth, and her mouth would have been extremely damaged. That wasn’t true though.
The jury found Sheppard guilty on the first trial. He was sentenced to life in prison.