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The Sam Sheppard Trial 2000: The Sheppard Trial Update

Friday, March 17, 2000 at 10:21 AM

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The state of Ohio continues their side of the case in the wrongful imprisonment trial of Dr. Sam Sheppard. His estate brought on the suit, and rested its case earlier this month. INFOHIO's/OHIO PUBLIC RADIO's Yolanda Perdomo reports on the state's defense thus far. And how a mistrial was almost called....for the second time in this civil case.

Yolanda Perdomo- DNA analysis, and determining whose blood was where took up most of this week’s testimony. Dr. Claude Owen Lovejoy, an anthropologist from Kent State University was talking about the effects of striking the cranial bone. Marilyn Sheppard was bludgeoned to death...and the murder weapon was never found. Sheppard attorney Terry Gilbert asked Dr. Lovejoy about his experiments. The doctor talked about a model of Marilyn’s skull to simulate her injuries. But he admitted it may not have been up to scale.

Terry Gilbert- You cant say that from a physic’s standpoint, that the depth of material known as the clay that you used in this case is of the same physical properties of physics as human tissue?

Dr. Lovejoy- No, no. The materials, properties, are different.

TG- They’re different?

Lovejoy- Yes.

TG- So when something strikes that object, given the differences in physical properties, you can’t say that it would be the same reaction from a real head to a model head, can you?

Lovejoy- That is correct.

YP- Judge Suster ruled Dr. Lovejoy would be able to testify on a limited basis later this month. While the jury was out of the courtroom for that day, the judge saw and questioned each juror individually. It came to his attention that one juror told another he was concerned that a third juror had possibly formed an opinion on the case. At the end of each break and recess, Judge Suster always tells the jury not to discuss this case, and not to form an opinion until after all the evidence is presented to them. Assistant Cuyahoga county prosecutor Steven Dever asked that this juror be removed, and replaced with one of the three remaining alternates.

Steven Dever- You gave these jurors an oath. Do not form, or express an opinion. Do not talk about this case. Talk about this case means that if you talk in any generalized terms, about the quality of the evidence. About the significance of the testimony. And that’s what her comments were. She was making comments about Dr. Tanay’s evaluation of the homicide itself. That this was a sadistic homicide. That it had to be perpetrated by somebody who gravely and mentally ill. Who is a very, very sick individual.

YP- Judge Suster said the jury would remain in tact. It was the second time in this civil case where information that a juror might have had, could have caused a mistrial. The first incident came last month, when Cuyahoga county prosecutor William Mason told a reporter the Sheppard estate wanted to settle the case for 3.25 million dollars. He was later scolded by Judge Suster, because if the jurors knew about the disclosure, they could have been influenced.

The state continued with their witnesses which included a forensic dentist , a blood stain specialist, and a biochemist who talked about pictorial evidence pertaining to Marilyn Sheppard’s blood spatter. Toby Wolson, a forensic biologist testified that some blood stains may have been smeared, and even contaminated...possibly ruling out Richard Eberling, the Sheppard’s handyman. When asked by Sheppard attorney Terry Gilbert if he disagreed with Dr. Tahir’s findings, Wolson said he didn’t have sufficient information to agree with him.

TG- We’re in trial, and you still say that until I see the notes, that I’m sticking to my opinion. Am I right?

Toby Wolson- That is correct. And if you read the last paragraph of my report, it says the observations and opinions expressed in this report are based on the evidence that was reviewed through January 7th of 2000. The submission of any additional evidence may affect these observations and opinions.

YP- Part of that dealt with Eberling’s blood type. Blood tested on part of the crime scene was type O. And Eberling had type A blood. The drama that encircled the first few weeks of the trial has leveled off. But tensions in the courtroom are still present, as noticed by Judge Ronald Suster.

Judge Ronald Suster- When someone says ‘good morning’, it starts an argument. The response is ‘what do you mean by that?’ or ‘who are you to say that to me?” so I do know we do argue about everything here....

YP- Local television crews show up sporadically, and newspaper reports on the trial are buried in the B section. Even CourtTV, which had a live truck, has pulled away from daily live updates. Instead, they’re carrying the trial live on the Internet. For INFOHIO, I’m Yolanda Perdomo in Cleveland.

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