Now, DNA Evidence has proven that Dr. Sam Sheppard did not kill his wife. More than that, the evidence proves that the actual killer is Richard Eberling, a former window washer at the Sheppards' lakeside house who first came under suspicion in 1959, when a ring of Mrs. Sheppard's was found in his home. Eberling was later sent to prison for the 1984 murder of an elderly widow.
The case of Dr. Sam Sheppard reached the United States Supreme Court. That court's reversal did much to improve the chances of wrongfully accused defendants. For example, because the original trial attracted so much attention, it was held in a high school gymnasium rather than in a courtroom. In addition, the prosecutor wanted to get the full benefit of television and newspaper publicity, so he took the case to trial almost immediately after the murder, without giving the defense time to prepare. Also, one supposedly expert witness testified that the indentation on a pillow was of a type made by "a surgical instrument" (important since Sheppard was a doctor) whereas common sense dictates that the impression on a pillow could have been made by anything.
Sheppard was sentenced to death. He got out after spending ten years in prison, because the United States Supreme Court reversed his conviction. Unable to practice as a doctor, he became a professional wrestler. This was an obvious play on the fact that he said that he wrestled with a "bushy-haired intruder". He died in 1970.
The man on the right above is Dr. Sam Sheppard. The man below is the actual killer, Richard Eberling, who recently died while in prison for another murder. I really hoped that Eberling would write a book about this and make a million dollars, so that we can learn more about it.
There was a case in Virginia in 1994 of a man on death row, whose jail house lawyer, who was another prisoner also on death row, successfully petitioned the courts, including the United States Supreme Court, for a DNA test of the crime scene victims in a rape and murder case. The murder had been committed and the trial held before DNA testing was available. After the DNA tests were completed, the result was that the man on death row was proven not to be the killer, because the woman had also been raped and the DNA of the sperm found inside her vagina did not belong to either her husband or to the defendant.
Because of this, and because the rape had been an essential element of the capital murder charge and the sperm in the vagina had been the only physical evidence against the accused, the Virginia Attorney General certified that the defendant was absolutely not guilty.
Nevertheless, Governor Douglas Wilder refused to grant clemency, saying that the case was still on appeal and that he did not interfere with pending court cases (not withstanding the fact that appeals are only concerned with trial errors, not with the actual guilt or innocence of the accused). Finally, because the defendant was facing the electric chair, the appellate lawyers agreed to dismiss all appeals and to petition for clemency.
With that, Governor Wilder commuted his sentence from death to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
Does anybody see anything wrong with this? Nobody in Virginia does!
I estimate that about 30% of all prisoners in Virginia are completely not guilty. This is because the Virginia system is set up to vindicate the authority of the state, not to correctly identify and prosecute the actual perpetrators.
I know of several inmates in Virginia who would get out if DNA tests were done regarding their cases.
Some corrections on your text:
1) "Sheppard was sentenced to death."
Sheppard was sentenced to life in prison. The prosecution did want the death penalty for Sam Sheppard, but they didn't get it.
2) "Sheppard got out because he had enough money to finance an appeal."
F. Lee Bailey volunteered to take Sheppard's case even though Sheppard did not have the money at the time to pay him. (He had been in prison for the past ten years, not working as a doctor.)
I guess the prosecution was hoping for the death penalty during the first trial, and that is why his son, Samuel Reese Sheppard, is an activist for abolishing the death penalty.
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