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Wednesday, 12 April, 2000, 22:34 GMT 23:34 UK
Jury rejects 'Fugitive' claim
The Fugitive logo
The case inspired a film and a TV series
The son of "Fugitive" doctor Sam Sheppard has failed to convince a jury that his late father did not kill his mother in 1954 - in one of the most sensational murder cases in US history.

The jury in Cleveland rejected a claim that Dr Sheppard was wrongfully imprisoned for beating his wife to death.

Marilyn Sheppard was bludgeoned in her bed early on 4 July 1954, at the family's home on Lake Erie.

The ensuing trial helped inspire The Fugitive TV series and film, and led to a landmark US Supreme Court ruling on the effects of pre-trial publicity.

Sam Reese Sheppard
Sam Reese Sheppard: "It's OK, it's OK"

The current case was brought by the couple's son, Sam Reese Sheppard, who - then just seven years old - slept through the killing in his nearby room.

Mr Sheppard sued the state of Ohio for wrongful imprisonment, claiming his father served 10 years for a crime he did not commit.

Judge Ronald Suster instructed the eight-member jury - which deliberated for only three hours after a 10-week trial - that they had to agree that the wealthy doctor had been innocent of his wife's beating death in order to find for the son.

Now 52, Mr Sheppard grasped his hands tightly and maintained a tight smile as the verdict was announced.

As his years-long quest ended in defeat, he was heard to murmur: "It's OK, it's OK."

Beforehand, he said he planned to appeal if he lost.

Unconscious

Dr Sheppard claimed he had been sleeping downstairs at the time of the murder and awoke to his wife's cries.

He said he ran to help her but was knocked unconscious by an intruder.

Marilyn Sheppard
Marilyn Sheppard: Battered to death while pregnant

Dr Sheppard said he chased the intruder to the beach but was knocked out again.

A jury convicted Dr Sheppard of murder and he spent nearly a decade in prison before the US Supreme Court overturned the verdict, ruling that the trial judge had failed to shield jurors and witnesses from the impact of negative media reports about the doctor.

Retrial

Dr Sheppard was acquitted at a retrial in 1966, but the public remained divided on whether he was guilty. He died in 1970.

Prosecutors portrayed Dr Sheppard as a cheating husband who felt trapped in his marriage and was particularly unhappy because his wife had recently become pregnant for the second time.

They presented evidence of Dr Sheppard's extramarital affair with a lab technician and argued that he beat his wife to death with a bedroom lamp in a fit of rage.

In the latest trial, lawyers acting for Dr Sheppard's son tried to show that the DNA of a third person - not Dr Sheppard or his wife - had been present at the blood-soaked crime scene.

Mr Sheppard's lawyers also sought to blame the killing on Richard Eberling, a window washer for the family at the time of the slaying.

He died in 1998 while serving a life prison sentence for the murder of another woman in the Cleveland area.

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