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Thursday, May 28, 2020

Sam Reese Sheppard, Oakland CA

At the age of seven, Sam R. Sheppard lost his pregnant mother to murder. Adding terror to trauma, the State of Ohio later charged his father, Dr. Sam Sheppard, with killing her, and sought the death penalty. His father was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. After twelve years of legal battles, including five appeals, the U.S. Supreme Court granted a new trial.

Dr. Sheppard was acquitted by the second jury, but was freed only to face an unbelieving public that continued to vilify him until his death at age 46.

The Sheppard case inspired numerous books and the TV series and movie The Fugitive. Recently, DNA testing of old blood drops from the crime scene demonstrated that a third person was in the home on the night of the murder, just as Sam’s father always insisted. Sam is an outspoken critic of the "waste and futility of the death penalty" and the author of Mockery of Justice, a recent book about his father’s case.

Reprinted with permission from "Not In Our Name: Murder Victims Families Speak Out Against the Death Penalty," a publication of Murder Victims Families For Reconciliation, Barbara Hood & Rachel King, Editors.  MVFR


Cofounder: Journey of Hope…From Violence to Healing
Board Member: Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation 1990 - 1996
Board Member: National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty 1995 - 1997
Sam walked over 1600 miles in about 4 months in his alternatives to violence walk, starting from Plymouth, Massachusetts and ending in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1995


"What does the death penalty give us? What did the threat of executing my father for the alleged murder of my mother do for my family and me when I was a young boy? It added more terror to an already horrific situation. It created stress and heartbreak that led to my grandfather’s failing health, two suicides by immediate family members, several lives wracked by alcoholism and other relatives unable to cope. For me, it led to symptoms of post-traumatic stress that I must still live with to this day --- over forty years later.

With this death penalty business we are creating dysfunctional people for the future, shattering lives in their most vulnerable hours. How can we memorialize the dignity and beauty of our loved ones through humiliation, fear and cruelty? We must be, and are, better people than that."