It's time to retire to the jury room, pseudo-intellectuals, and consider the facts of one of the country's most notorious murder cases.
It's a real whodunit, and the facts would indicate that the man charged, convicted and imprisoned didn't do it. That Dr. Sam Sheppard's murder conviction was ultimately overturned and he was acquitted in a second trial makes no difference. By that time, Sheppard was a broken man with little time left to live.
"The Wrong Man: The Final Verdict on the Dr. Sam Sheppard Murder Case" by James Neff is a fascinating as well as a cautionary tale, particularly in this time of 24-hour news cycles. It will remind readers that things are not always as they might seem, and that's why this tale of real-life crime is the latest recommenation from Jim's Pseudo-Intellectual Book Club.
Sam Sheppard, who came from a family of doctors, practiced medicine at the family hospital in a Cleveland, Ohio, suburb. Just 29, he was well off and lived a happy, active life with his wife, Marilyn, and son, Chip. He was, however, a skirt chaser, and that became one of the main reasons for his downfall.
On July 4, 1954, after a pleasant evening spent entertaining friends, Sheppard called a friend in the middle of the night and reported a home invasion. Authorities found his wife savagely beaten to death in the family bedroom and Shepperd suffering from a head injury and telling of an altercation with a bushy-haired stranger.
The story, naturally, invited skepticism because most murders of that nature are family related. The county coroner, who led criminal investigations, focused immediately on Sheppard as the killers.
Cleveland's news media howled for blood, pressing authorities to extract a confession from the doctor.
None was forthcoming, with Sheppard repeatedly telling authorities the same story of hearing his wife scream and being knocked out from behind when he came to help. Later, he said he woke up and again pursued the stranger out of the house to the beach, where he engaged in another altercation before the man escaped.
There was little physical evidence linking Sheppard to the bloody crime, and the book contain a fascinating chapter "The Science of Murder" explaining the characteristics and meaning of blood spatter evidence.
Shepperd's case became a national soap opera. While he was serving his life sentence, Sheppard's family hired F. Lee Bailey to represent him, propelling Bailey to national fame when he won a reversal of Sheppard's conviction by the U.S. Supreme Court and an acquittal during a second trial.
The evidence would indicate that what happened to Sheppard was a travesty of justice, one that could not be undone. In the aftermath of his wife's murder, Sheppard's father died, his mother committed suicide, his family members were ostracized and his son pyschologically damaged for life. All the while, the book indicates, the likely killer was continuing a long life of crime.
Here are revious recommendations from Jim's Pseudo-Intellectual Book Club.
[-] "Ghost Soldiers: The Forgotten Epic Story of World War II's Most Dramatic Mission" by Hampton Sides.
[-] "The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt" by Edmund Morris.
[-] "A Night to Remember" by Walter Lord.
[-] "April 1865: The Month That Saved America" by Jay Winik.
[-] "Seabiscuit: An American Legend" by Laura Hillenbrand.
[-] "Lindbergh" by A. Scott Berg.
[-] "The Kennedy Men: 1901-1963" by Laurence Leamer.
[-] "The Brother: The Untold Story of the Rosenberg Case" by Sam Roberts.
[-] "Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy" by Jane Leavy.
[-] "Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six M.I.T. Students Who Took Vegas for Millions" by Ben Mezrich.
[-] "Harry & Ike: The Partnership That Remade the Post-War World" by Steve Neal.
[-] "Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game" by Michael Lewis.
[-] "Into Africa: The Epic Adventures of Stanley & Livingstone" by Martin Dugard.
[-] "In Harm's Way: The Sinking of the USS Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of Its Survivors" by Doug Stanton.
[-] "Public Enemies: America's Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34." by Bryan Burrough.
[-] "Flags of our Fathers," by James Bradley.
[-] "Cary Grant: A Biography" by Marc Elliot.
[-] "Three Nights in August: Strategy, Heartbreak and Joy Inside the Mind of a Manager" by Buzz Bissinger.
[-] "Boss Tweed: The Rise and Fall of the Corrupt Pol Who Conceived the Soul of Modern New York" by Kenneth Ackerman.
[-] "They Marched Into Sunlight: War and Peace, Vietnam and America, October 1967" by David Maraniss.
[-] "Flashman" (a novel) by George MacDonald Fraser.
[-] "Beyond Glory: Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling and A World on the Brink" by David Margolick.
[-] "Ladies and gentlemen, the Bronx is Burning: 1977, Baseball, Politics and the Battle for the Soul of a City" by Jonathan Mahler.
[-] "Five Families: the Rise, Decline, and Resurgence of America's Most Powerful Mafia Empires" by Selwyn Raab.
[-] "The Rivalry: Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain and the Golden Age of Basketball." by John Taylor.
[-] "American Brutus: John Wilkes Booth and the Lincoln Conspiracies" by Michael Kauffman.
[-] "The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11" by Lawrence Wright.
[-] "A Well-Paid Slave: Curt Flood's Fight for Free Agency in Professional Sports" by Brad Snyder.
[-] "The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game" by Michael Lewis.
[-] "The Education of a Coach" by David Halberstam.
[-] "Arc of Justice: A Sage of Race, Civil Rights and Murder in the Jazz Age" by Kevin Boyle
[-] "The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived The Great American Dust Bowl" by Timothy Egan.