Jury Selection Begins in 'The Fugitive' Trial
CLEVELAND (Reuters) - Jury selection got under way on Monday in the third trial of the scandalous murder that inspired the TV show and movie ``The Fugitive.''
An initial group of 50 potential jurors began filling out a 35 page questionnaire that covers everything from their race, religion and employment to their knowledge of DNA and the murder of Marilyn Sheppard on July 4, 1954. Prosecutors said the jury could be seated by the end of the week with opening arguments beginning as early as Friday.
Dr. Sam Sheppard was accused of murdering his then-pregnant wife and sentenced to prison. He served 10 years of the sentence before the U.S. Supreme Court declared the trial unconstitutional because of the media circus that accompanied it. He was acquitted at a retrial in 1966 when he was represented by celebrity lawyer F. Lee Bailey and he died four years later. Sheppard maintained that his wife was killed by a bushy-haired man who knocked him over as he went to her aid.
Sheppard's son, Sam Reese Sheppard, has filed a wrongful imprisonment suit against the state of Ohio and his attorneys must prove the wealthy osteopath innocent. So far Judge Ronald Suster has turned down two motions made last week by Sheppard's attorneys.
On Friday he ruled that the jury will have access to the entire case record of the 1954 trial. Sheppard's lawyer, Terry Gilbert, had argued against admission of that evidence on the grounds it had already be ruled unconstitutional. Suster said he would consider other motions before him to limit the amount of evidence that could be admitted.
Since most of the earlier witnesses are dead or unable to attend the trial, the testimony would have to be read by actors or other individuals chosen by the defense and prosecution.
The judge also has decided to allow Cuyahoga County Coroner Elizabeth Balraj to testify in the case over Gilbert's objections that she only rubber stamped the work of others on her staff. Suster is still to rule on whether he will allow Sheppard's attorneys to discuss charges against Richard Eberling in other cases unrelated to Marilyn Sheppard's murder. Gilbert alleges the killer was Eberling, the Sheppard's window washer at the time of the brutal slaying. He died in prison on charges of another murder in 1998.