The banner headline on the July 20, 1954, edition of the Cleveland Press screamed “Somebody is getting away with murder!”
The murder in question was the fatal bludgeoning of Marilyn Sheppard in her Bay Village home on July 4. Suspicion soon centered on her husband, Sam, a successful osteopath — aided by breathless coverage of the city’s newspapers, particularly the Press. (Sheppard claimed a bushy-haired intruder killed Marilyn and knocked him unconscious after a fight.)
On July 21, in another front-page editorial, the Press demanded that Cuyahoga County Coroner Dr. Sam Gerber hold an inquest. And he did, scheduling it to start the next day in the gym at Normandy Elementary School in Bay Village.
The three-day inquest turned into a circus. Sheppard, wearing a neck brace from his own injuries the night of Marilyn’s killing, was questioned at length about an extramarital affair — providing a motive for him to kill his wife. At one point, Sheppard’s lawyer, William Corrigan, was removed from the proceedings.
The case was ceded to Cleveland police, and by the end of the month, Sheppard was in custody. After a nine-week trial, Sheppard was found guilty of second-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.
After Corrigan's death, Sheppard hired a young firebrand named F. Lee Bailey as his lawyer and sought a new trial. His conviction was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. Among the reasons was a carnival atmosphere and prejudicial media coverage. Sheppard was acquitted at another trial and died a free but broken man in 1970.