<I>Fugitive</I> Case Back In Court

78209 Dr. and Mrs. Sam Sheppard composite CBS

The guilt or innocence of Dr. Sam Sheppard is again the subject of a courtroom drama.

Nearly a half century ago, Sheppard was convicted of murdering his pregnant wife in a case that inspired the TV series and movie, The Fugitive. He spent 10 years behind bars before he was acquitted in a second trial in 1966.

This time around, his son, Sam Reese Sheppard, is going to court. He has filed suit, accusing the state of Ohio of wrongfully imprisoning his father, who lived a secluded life after his release and died in 1970.

"I believe the state of Ohio should be responsible and accountable for the mistakes that they made," Sheppard said Monday on CBS News' The Early Show. "My dad faced the death penalty. He was almost executed and the case was never resolved."

Even though Dr. Sheppard was later cleared, his son believes he was "villified to death."

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Sheppard had been denied a fair trial because of the massive pre-trial publicity the case engendered. That decision, said Sheppard's son and his attorney Terry Gilbert, was a landmark ruling that still influences the nation's judicial system.

Gilbert says the preponderance of evidence that he plans to present at trial is physical evidence accumulated over the years and will show his father's innocence.

"Certainly, evidence was hidden," young Sheppard said of the original trial. "My dad lived a miserable life in the prison, which was before prison reform, and he was badgered to death essentially. He was released and lived in legal limbo for two years, had a fair trial and it showed he was innocent and the state threw up its hands and says, 'oh, he got a slick lawyer and got off.' That's part of the legend and we mean to change that."

If the two can convince a jury that Ohio was to blame, the case will then go to the state capital and the question of damages will be raised.

For his own part, young Sheppard, who was seven when his mother was murdered, is hoping to find closure with his lawsuit. He says he suffers from unresolved trauma and grief and hopes the latest trial will put that to rest.

"This struggle of ours has enabled me to find out new bits and pieces about my mother's murder," he said. "I believe we have solved the case."

  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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