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Tuesday, February 18, 2020

10-09 Newark, The Advocate

Shepherding an end to the death penalty
By: Charles A Peterson

    Sam Reese Sheppard, son of the late Dr. Sam Sheppard, of Cleveland, talks with Judy Stansbury, of Granville, at Wednesday night’s Ohio Journey of Hope…From Violence to Healing meeting at the Granville First Baptist Church.  Dr. Sheppard was found guilty of killing his wife, but later was acquitted.  He faced the death penalty if he had not been acquitted.  The younger Sheppard supports the agency in its drive for a moratorium on the death penalty in Ohio.
    Another Ohio Journey of Hope program is scheduled from 7-9 tonight at Centenary United Methodist Church in Granville.  The group is collecting signatures for a moratorium on the death penalty in Ohio until a fair and impartial review of the penalty is conducted.
    GRANVILLE – When the death penalty was reinstated in Ohio in 1981, Sam Reese Sheppard knew he had to come out of his self-imposed seclusion.
    The post-traumatic syndrome he still experienced from the death of his mother in 1952, when he was 7, and the conviction and eventual acquittal of his father, Dr. Sam Sheppard, in the death, pushed him to become involved with others with the same experiences.  Had the conviction held up, his father would have faced the death penalty.
    “I knew I had to speak out and find others…to share experiences with family members of murder victims,” Sheppard said in an interview Wednesday night at the Granville First Baptist Church.
    Sheppard was scheduled to speak as part of the Ohio Journey of Hope…From Violence to Healing appearance in Granville.  However, laryngitis prevented him from doing so.
    The Journey of Hope, which is calling for a nationwide moratorium on the death penalty, held a one-hour session at Denison University in the afternoon and another in the evening following a potluck supper at the Baptist Church.  About 50 from the Granville area attended the two, hearing family members of murder victims speak about why they oppose the death penalty.
    Sheppard overcame a reluctance to enter the public arena again after several years out of the public eye writing music and poetry.  “I knew the dilemma would be that I’d have to be a public future again,” he said.
    Sheppard came forth when he realized how close to the death penalty he had come as a member of a murder victim’s family.
    “My position is let’s take a look at the victim’s family members,” he said, especially those who lives are negatively impacted as a result of the trauma they experience.  We’re building the next generation of dysfunctional people, which will be a huge, huge expense to society,” he said.
    Sheppard favors life without parole and similar prison sentences.  He also supports giving prisoners the option of working to generate income for their families or for a victims’ restitution fund, so that children of victims, and even those found guilty of murder, can attend college or receive psychological help.
    For many prisoners’ and victims’ family members, executions bring no sense of relief, said Bud Welch of Oklahoma, whose 23-year-old daughter, Julie, was among those killed in the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995.
    When accused bomber Timothy McVeigh was ultimately executed for the crime, Welch said his pain was not eased.  
    “There was nothing about that process that bought me peace or relief,” he said.
    Welch, instead, found peace after meeting McVeigh’s father and daughter, to whom he promised to do anything he could to prevent their son’s death.
    “When I finally went through this process, I felt that a tremendous weight had been lifted from my shoulders,” he said