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The Sam Sheppard Trial 2000: Opening Statements

Monday, February 14, 2000 at 2:14 PM

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This morning, opening statements are scheduled for the third trial involving the late Dr. Sam Sheppard....the inspiration for "The Fugitive" TV series who was convicted but later acquitted of killing his wife in 1954. Yolanda Perdomo reports.

More than one hundred witnesses are scheduled to make their way to the Justice Center in the next few months either in person, on video tape or through court documents. Several include doctors and technicians who will discuss evidence and some DNA conclusions. DNA technology wasn’t available during the time of the original crime but expert testimony from the Sheppard estate witnesses are expected to draw a correlation between DNA on the crime scene and another person, possibly linked to the murder of Marilyn Sheppard. DNA evidence is expected to play a large role in the Sheppard case. Attorneys for the Sheppard family were counting on evidence linking Richard Eberling to the murder. Eberling was the Sheppard’s window washer who was suspected by the Sheppard team as the real killer. But testimony on Eberling’s role will be, at the most, limited and that may hurt the plaintiff’s case in proving that Dr. Sam Sheppard didn’t commit the crime.

Terry Gilbert- We’ve said all along that that is not the main focus of this case, is to prove or prosecute Eberling for any other murders. Our job is to prove that Dr. Sheppard was innocent, and that’s where our case is going.

YP- Terry Gilbert is the lead attorney for the Sheppard team.

TG- We have a lot of evidence in this case to present a lot of scientific and forensic evidence that I think is quite powerful. Everybody thinks that our case is about Richard Eberling. It isn’t. It’s about innocence of Dr. Sheppard.

YP- Appearing on the witness list is celebrated attorney F. Lee Bailey. Bailey, who most recently represented O. J. Simpson, in a trial in which DNA evidence also played a large part, represented Dr. Sheppard in a successful appeal of the 1954 conviction. Testimony on blood spatter patterns will also be discussed. And we may also learn details from the forensic evidence gathered from the exhumation of Marilyn Sheppard. William Mason is the lead attorney for the Cuyahoga County’s Prosecutor’s Office.

William Mason- I’m not going to lay out what we’re going to do because there will be a lot of cat and mouse going on for the next two months about who’s testifying, what they say and then who we put on. So we’ll make decisions as we progress through this trial. So I’m not prepared to say that anybody but who we have on our witness list today, they’re all going to testify, until we make some different decisions about that.

YP- The third trial involving the resolution of Marilyn Sheppard’s murder will not find Dr. Sam Sheppard innocent or guilty of the crime, rather whether he was wrongfully imprisoned for her death forty-six years ago. If the Sheppard family can prove that that is the case, it will expose the state for a two million dollar claim. The trial is expected to last anywhere from six to eight weeks.

For INFOHIO I’m Yolanda Perdomo in Cleveland.

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