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Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Journey of Hope raises awareness

By: Maritza deMaintenon
Death Penalty Abolitionist

The Journey of Hope passed through Athens on October 5th.  The following day, I received a call from Sam Shepard, one of the Journey members who had been scheduled to speak to the community at Fourth St. Elementary – had anyone attended (as we were leaving, a family did arrive.  The grandmother had lost a brother to homicide).

Sam had misplaced his notes, and he thought he might have left them on the podium.  They were there, and I was curious to see how he had prepared his lecture.

Flipping through various statistical sheets and agendas, I found a copy of a news clipping dated December 1954.  I recognized the headline as part of an account of his father’s trial.

The article began: “Dr. Samuel Shepard nervously fingered a crucifix today as he heard the State of Ohio open it’s demand that he be executed for the July 4th murder of his pregnant wife, Marilyn…”  “Be fair to the defendant<” the piece continued, “show him the same mercy he showed his victim…”

I found another clipping headlined “He asks to go to funeral.”  “Dr. Sam Shepard made a unique request to the Common Pleas Judge Edward Blythin that he be ‘excused’ from the courtroom to attend tomorrow’s 2 p.m. funeral for Harry P. Blake, grandfather of the wife he is accused of killing…”

It was one of the saddest moments for me, because as I read; I knew that Dr. Shepard, after serving 12 years in prison, had been exonerated of all charges.

He died four years after his release from prison.

Sam was seven when this tragedy began.  Because of the circumstances of his mother’s death, his is a murder victims family.  Because he chose to love – not hate, he is a Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation member.

My sincere gratitude to Dick Mendenhall for his kindness and willingness to help us expose this issue to the public.

Also, to Dr. Easom, who tested the parameters of her accelerated school, to Ed Tant for inflicting praise and guilt upon me, the WFA for their warm reception, to Laura for providing nutrition, Rev. Anthony Hudson who truly lives his faith, my friends John and Helen Wilcox, Lenore, and of course to Ray and Phyllis Durham, whose work is an inspiration.

Joe, I’m going to learn how to cook one good meal for you.