The Naked City Jan 6 2010
DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE
1954 murder results in fifty-year legal battle.

In this January 1965 issue of The Lowdown, editors take up the cudgel for convicted murderer Dr. Sam Sheppard, who was serving a life sentence for the bludgeoning murder of his wife, Marilyn. Dr. Sheppard claimed that, during the early morning hours of July 4, 1954, he was in his home sleeping on a downstairs daybed, when he awoke to his wife’s screams. He ran to her aid and was attacked by a “bushy-haired man” and knocked out. When he came to he chased the man outside, fought him again, and was again knocked out. When he awoke once more, the intruder was gone and his wife was dead, having been severely beaten and apparently sexually assaulted. Police searched for the bushy-haired suspect, but eventually decided their perp was the good doctor himself. At a trial later that year a jury agreed, and Sheppard was sent up for life.

By the time Lowdown began advocating for Sheppard, he had already been granted a writ of habeas corpas, and was about to be granted a new trial due to massive publicity surrounding the first that may have tainted the original jury pool. When Sheppard was retried the next year—with none other than a young F. Lee Bailey acting as his defense lawyer—he was acquitted on the basis of reasonable doubt. However, the verdict did not clear Sheppard’s name to the satisfaction of some family members. Efforts to do that continued all the way until 2002, complete with DNA testing on the exhumed corpses of Sheppard, his wife, and her unborn fetus. Results: inconclusive.
 
So you must be wondering why police focused on Sheppard in the first place. It wasn’t just because he was the husband, and his marriage was unhappy. Police investigators are very much like statisticians. Certain types of cases share certain traits, and the more traits a particular case shares with a certain category of cases, the more probable a certain conclusion begins to seem. An example: a home invader will nearly always immobilize the gravest threat first, meaning the man of the house; but in a staged domestic murder the man nearly always, somehow, is overlooked by the intruder, leading to a heroic rescue attempt that fails and results in injuries that are, somehow, never life-threatening. Another example: in a staged domestic murder the man will often remove clothing from the victim to imply that the motive was sexual assault by an intruder; but the rape is never consummated, for obvious reasons.
 
The list goes on. Suffice it to say, to the cops Marilyn Sheppard's killing seemed like a textbook staged domestic homicide, and they proceeded based on that assumption. But regardless, the evidence was never there for a conviction. Of that, there’s little dispute. Today, Sheppard’s innocence or guilt remains a hot topic in the Ohio town where he lived. And it probably always will be, if only because people there are reminded of the case every time The Fugitive appears on television. That’s right—if certain details of the story seem familiar, it’s because both the series and movie took inspiration from the Sheppard case. And there was one more important result. It catapulted F. Lee Bailey to national prominence as an attorney, a position he has held ever since in defending everyone from Patty Hearst to O.J. Simpson.

 
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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
February 25
1947—Prussia Ceases To Exist
The centuries-old state of Prussia, which had been a great European power under the reign of Frederick the Great during the 1800s, and a major influence on German culture, ceases to exist when it is dissolved by the post-WWII Allied Control Council comprised of the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union.
1964—Clay Beats Liston
Heavyweight boxer Cassius Clay, aged 22, becomes champion of the world after beating Sonny Liston, aka the Dark Destroyer, in one of the biggest upsets in boxing history. It would be the beginning of a storied and controversial career for Clay, who would announce to the world shortly after the fight that he had changed his name to Muhammad Ali.
February 24
1920—The Nazi Party Is Founded
The small German Workers' Party, or DAP, which was under the direction of Adolf Hitler, changes its name to the National Socialist German Workers' Party. Though Hitler adopted the socialist label to attract working class Germans, his party in fact embraced mainly anti-socialist ideas. The group became known in English as the Nazi Party, and within the next fifteen years expanded to become the most powerful force in German politics.
1942—Battle of Los Angeles Takes Place
A object flying over wartime Los Angeles triggers a massive anti-aircraft barrage, ultimately killing 3 civilians. Initially the target of the aerial barrage is thought to be an attacking force from Japan, but it is later suggested to be imaginary and a case of "war nerves", a lost weather balloon, a blimp, a Japanese fire balloon, or even an extraterrestrial craft. The true nature of the object or objects remains unknown to this day, but the event is known as the Battle of Los Angeles.
February 23
1945—Flag Raised on Iwo Jima
Four days after landing on the Japanese-held island of Iwo Jima, American soldiers of the 28th Regiment, 5th Marine Division take Mount Suribachi and raise an American flag. A photograph of the moment shot by Joe Rosenthal becomes one of the most famous images of WWII, and wins him the Pulitzer Prize later that year.
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