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Sam Sheppard Murder Trials

This summer, students at the Stephanie Tubbs Jones Summer Legal Academy worked on legal issues “ripped from the headlines” — the July 4, 1954 headlines regarding the murder of Marilyn Reese Sheppard. Dr. Sam Sheppard, her husband, was convicted of second-degree murder on Dec. 21, 1954. In the first of his many high-profile cases, attorney F. Lee Bailey eventually got the U.S. Supreme Court to set aside the conviction due to a lack of due process. (Sheppard v. Maxwell, 384 U.S. 333 (1966))

The Sheppard case made news even last year, when retiring Prosecutor Bill Mason donated the files and exhibits associated with the case to Cleveland State University’s Cleveland-Marshall School of Law. The school plans to catalog and digitize the materials, making them available to future researchers. Mason co-wrote Dr. Sam Sheppard on Trial, published in 2003. 42 years earlier Paul Holmes published The Sheppard Murder Case. (Holmes was an attorney who covered the original trial and subsequent proceedings, according to one Amazon book reviewer.)

Ohio’s libraries have several unique items and resources related to the Sheppard trials. OhioLINK patrons may borrow Keith Sanders’s 1964 masters thesis on The Cleveland Press’s treatment of the Sheppard case, in the context of sensational news coverage. (The Supreme Court noted a carnival-like atmosphere for the first trial.) Selected individual briefs have been available at some libraries since 1955. Currently-affiliated law patrons have access to MOML: U.S. Supreme Court Records and Briefs, 1832-1978, that allows access to court documents from the aforementioned Sheppard v. Maxwell case. Signed copies of Sam Sheppard’s own book (Endure and Conquer) are housed at a couple libraries’ Special Collections, although three signed copies are also available on the used book market (priced at $29.99, $49.64, and $88.97 on June 24, 2013). A 24-page Life magazine article on the reopening of the Sheppard case has been cataloged by one OhioLINK library. Cleveland News Index, a service of the Cleveland Public Library that indexes two Cleveland newspapers and two Cleveland magazines for the period from 1983-1999, contains approximately 139 citations to local articles about Sam Sheppard or his son.

An array of audiovisual materials related to the Sheppard murder trial are also cataloged by OhioLINK libraries, some of which may not have seen the light of YouTube. CSU has houses a documentary film, The Day Marilyn Died, on DVD in Special Collections, and the film now is available on Vimeo. Encyclopedia Britannica produced the film Free Press vs. Fair Trial by Jury in 1969. Court TV covered Sam Sheppard in 1999’s Controversial Trials (2004, c. 1999). CSU has a collection of photographs related to the Sheppard trial taken by Plain Dealer photographer William Ashbolt, in Special Collections. CSU Law has videotapes from a 2001 legal conference on law, technology, and media since the Sheppard trial.

A UMKC law professor hosts a website devoted to the Sheppard trials. CSU Law intends to create a website related to the archival materials Prosecutor Mason donated to them in 2012.


Jack P. DeSario and William D. Mason. Dr. Sam Sheppard on Trial: The Prosecutors and the Marilyn Sheppard Murder. Kent: Kent State University, 2003.  Law, Smith Stacks KF224.S47.D47 2003

James Neff. The Wrong Man: The Final Verdict on the Dr. Sam Sheppard Murder Case. New York: Random House, 2001. Law, Smith Stacks KF224.S47.N44 2001

Jack Harrison Pollack. Dr. Sam: An American Tragedy.New York: Avon, 1975. (revised edition of 1972 ed.) OhioLINK

Sam Sheppard. Endure and Conquer. Cleveland: World Pub. Co., [1966]. Law Stacks KF224.S47.A3, Smith Stacks KF 224.S47.A2

Paul Holmes. The Sheppard Murder Case. New York: McKay, [1961]. Law Stacks KF 224.S47H6, Smith Stacks KF 224.S4H6