Being the Government Means (Almost) Never Having to Say You're Sorry: The Sam Sheppard Case and the Meaning of Wrongful Imprisonment
58 Pages Posted: 6 Aug 2004
Date Written: August 2004
Dr. Sam Sheppard was at the center of the highest profile crime in Ohio history. As the Ohio Supreme Court put it, the case contained "[m]urder and mystery, society, sex and suspense." Sheppard's conviction was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in a landmark 1966 ruling, but the controversy over the case continues to the present. The final legal chapter in the story may have been written with an unsuccessful wrongful-imprisonment lawsuit brought by the Sheppard estate in April 2000.
This paper uses the long debate over the Sheppard case as a vehicle for exploring the concept of wrongful imprisonment. The main focus is on the Ohio wrongful-imprisonment statute, which has been described as among the most beneficent in the United States but which in operation has proven to be quite restrictive. The paper concludes by offering an alternative perspective on the idea of wrongful imprisonment, suggesting that the state has a moral if not a legal obligation toward those persons who have been erroneously convicted.
Keywords: Wrongful Imprisonment, Appellate Procedure, Sam Sheppard
JEL Classification: K14, K41, K42
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation