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Gerber's Inner Circle
A startling view behind the scenes explains why Coroner Gerber was so quick to decide Sam Sheppard murdered his wife and why the Cleveland newspapers pilloried the entire Sheppard family. (More)

Issue 1, Article # 8: Erle Stanley Gardner on the Sheppard Murder Case

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"To my mind there are two reasons [that the Sheppard murder case continues to hold the public interest]. One is a somewhat uneasy realization in the public mind of what happens when the freedom of the press influences the administration of justice. The other reason is that despite the decision of the courts there is in the public mind a widespread curiosity as to Dr. Sam Sheppard's guilt. That curiosity would not exist if it weren't sustained by a doubt.

"Public opinion demands that the authorities produce the murderer. To fail in that would greatly undermine public faith in the administration of justice. Yet here is a border-line case. The evidence is such that to fail to prosecute the husband would, unless some other person could be demonstrated to be the murderer, undermine popular faith in law and order.

"In conducting a post-mortem on the case and writing an authentic history of it one must keep in mind the necessity of being fair to the Cleveland authorities as well as to Dr. Sheppard.

"This was a case that couldn't be dropped; yet a case where so much evidence, and no more, could be obtained. Having amassed that evidence the authorities, much as they might wish they had more, couldn't by any possible stretch of the imagination have failed to prosecute Dr. Sheppard.

"There is, as far as I know, only one possible solution to problems such as are presented in the Sheppard case. We should have some board or some tribunal which can, at its own option, review the facts in border-line cases, and if the board fees that a fair consideration of the evidence must inevitably leave a reasonable doubt in the mind of an impartial judge, the verdict of the jury should be set aside.

"I am very much in favor of the jury system. . . Yet the fact remains that juries are not infallible. I have investigated too many cases where innocent men have been wrongfully convicted to have any illusions on this point. . . Once they have been convicted it is virtually impossible to do anything about it under our present form of government."

-- Erle Stanley Gardner, from the foreword to The Sheppard Murder Case

NOTE: Erle Stanley Gardner, best known as author of the Perry Mason detective novels, was a practicing lawyer and involved with the Sheppard case as a representative of The Court of Last Resort. Paul Holmes wrote The Sheppard Murder Case,David McKay Company, New York 1961.

 



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