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Testimony reveals Sheppard sought out-of-court settlement
CLEVELAND -- Sam Reese Sheppard, who has worked for years to clear his father's name, has sought $3.2 million for an out-of-court settlement of his wrongful imprisonment lawsuit against the state of Ohio, a prosecutor has revealed.
William Mason, prosecutor for Cuyahoga County, disclosed the figure in court Tuesday as Sheppard was testifying -- taking Sheppard's attorney by surprise. Sheppard claims his late father Sam Sheppard was wrongfully imprisoned for the 1954 beating death of his mother, Marilyn Sheppard.
Sheppard's attorney, Terry Gilbert, said he was shocked at the revelation of the $3.2 million figure, which he believed had been part of a confidential discussion with Mason's office. Judge Ronald Suster described the disclosure as "improper."
During the testimony, Gilbert, asked his client why he has pursued the case so hard.
"My mother was murdered," Sheppard said. "The offender has never been found. It's an unsolved murder case. My father's life was destroyed by the state of Ohio. Any son who would sweep that under the rug is not worth his salt as far as I'm concerned."
Elder Sheppard convicted then acquitted
If lawyers can prove that Sheppard's father spent 10 years in prison for a crime he did not commit, Sheppard could collect an estimated $2 million in damages.
Sheppard's father was convicted of the murder in 1954, but the verdict was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court and the trial declared unconstitutional because of the media circus that surrounded it.
He was retried in 1966 with famed lawyer F. Lee Bailey leading his defense and was found not guilty. Sam Sheppard died four years later.
The doctor had told authorities a bushy-haired intruder killed his wife. His son believes that intruder was Richard Eberling, who washed windows for the Sheppard family.
Eberling was later convicted of another murder. He died in prison in 1998 after telling a fellow inmate that he had murdered Marilyn Sheppard.
In pretrial motions, the judge has ruled that any comments concerning Eberling's conviction and other crimes could not be mentioned during the wrongful imprisonment trial.
But on the stand Tuesday, Sheppard made repeated references in his testimony to Eberling's criminal history, prompting objections by Mason.
Boyhood memories surrounding case
Sheppard, 52, described his memories at the time of the murder that occurred 46 years ago.
He said there was "no tension or hostility" in the house the weekend his mother died. She tucked him into bed the night of her death, he said.
Under cross-examination, Sheppard admitted his father told him that while he loved his wife, he had an "open marriage" while she recovered from some sexual problems.
Prosecutors have tried to portray the doctor as an adulterous husband who felt trapped in his marriage and killed his wife in a fit of rage.
Sheppard also testified that he slept through his mother's murder in the early morning hours and awoke to "my uncle Richard and Mrs. Houk (a neighbor), who were very upset. They told me something terrible had happened."
The case partly inspired the TV series and film "The Fugitive."
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